Creating a Participation Strategy: The Basics

1. Begin as early as possible; start from wherever you are.

  • Understand the history, power & politics, mandates, and other situational factors
  • Don't do public participation if leaders/decision makers are not committed to it

2. Get clear about objectives for the project, program, or activity.

  • Purpose, audience, goals/outcomes, geography
  • How it could affect people (during and after)
  • How decisions will be made and who will make them

3. List potentially affected interests.

  • Who are they? why would they care? do they know they might care?
  • Get beyond the us-vs.-them adversarial outlook have knowledge to contribute
  • Have ownership or jurisdictional interests
  • Want to be kept informed
  • Want to influence the process or the decision

4. Determine the participation objectives.

  • What you want or need from participants (internal and external)
  • What participants want or need from you and the project
  • Check your assumptions about what you think you know or can do
  • Do you need help with this part of the project?

5. Decide on strategy and methods.

  • May vary with different stages in the project
  • May need to have different kinds/levels of interaction
  • What budget and staff resources are needed to carry it out?
  • What performance measures will tell you if your approach worked?

6. Integrate the public participation opportunities into the overall project schedule; adjust the project schedule if necessary.

  • Communicate clearly about when and how people can be involved
  • Communicate clearly about how public input will or will not affect the decision

7. Adapt as necessary along the way.

  • May need to modify traditional methods to meet process needs

8. Collect feedback and learn from your efforts.