Evaluating public involvement processes by combining perspectives from planners, participants, and normative theory
Funding:  National Science Foundation
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Project Summary

 From 1995-1997 we conducted a study of public participation in a forest policy-making process in northern New England and New York. We sought to understand various perspectives about the process held by planners and participants in this process and how they differed from normative theory.

Conclusions from this study have important implications for theorists of public participation. First, it is inappropriate to expect that criteria for designing or evaluating process will be universally held; many theories implicitly or explicitly assume such universality. Second, the subjects of our research study emphasized the importance of conceiving of any single process as just one part of a larger, ongoing political relationship among the participants. This brought to attention -- much more so than did our theory -- the important notions of trust and capacity building. Third, the subjects of this study were willing to accept unequal relations of power among the discourse participants, something our theory initially rejected. Fourth, this study suggested patterns of association between peoples’ interest positions and their normative beliefs about the process.

Read more about the theoretical background of this project.

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