More and more people want to be informed and
involved in decision processes, they want a say in shaping their
surroundings. Decision-makers in politics and the administration are
increasingly aware of the benefits of exchanging ideas and of working
together with citizens concerned. A great number of methods and tools are
available to conduct public participation, such as public
meetings, citizen panels and mediation.
organize and structure a participation process.
Informal public participation is often initiated to develop
community programs or solve
conflicts about a project (e.g. mediation or Local Agenda 21).
In cases of approval procedures formal public participation is
mandatory, including wide-ranging rights of inspecting the files, making
statements and the right to appeal against a licensing approval (e. g.
environmental impact assessment, licensing procedure according to the
Depending on the method and type selected three stages of public
participation show different levels of involvement and decision power:
- information (e. g. public meeting, notice-board - little
opportunity of influence)
- consultation (e. g. citizen panel - ideas and suggestions are taken
- decision-influencing (strong influence on the final decision).
Factors of success
- General framework and basic conditions:
Careful consideration and planning of the following aspects will strongly
influence the course and progress of a participation procedure: definition
and clarification of aims, groups of participants, decision-power,
implementation of results, resources (time, finance, equipment),
participation method, facilitator/moderator, rules, management of
- Quality criterions for a successful process: Values and personal attitudes of the participants will influence and
shape the team spirit of a group: the willingness for a fair balance of
power, open communication as well as active and mindful listening and
mutual appreciation will be conducive elements for a good process.