The idea behind public participation in territorial development projects is to include the stakeholders of a territory into its management. The goal is to integrate the user expertise, to create a climate of trust, and to establish channels of communication between different stakeholders in order to achieve a more democratic management of the territory answering the challenge of sustainable development.
There are questions to be asked when designing the public participation process:
- How to move from the problem diagnosis to the design of participatory process to address this problem?
- How to work with stakeholders whose interests are diverse in a constructive and motivating manner?
- How to move from the representation of individual or collective interests to the construction of shared objectives?
- What stance needs to be taken to complete successfully the participatory process?
In our consultancy work we focus on responding to these questions and on proposing effective solutions at different stages of public participation process: design, stakeholder mobilization, facilitation, evaluation. Our interventions combine the method with the values that define our work ethics.
Public participation process usually follows three stages: preparation, implementation and evaluation.
- The success of public participation process starts with the preparation stage. We analyze the context; clarify the objectives of the process and possible margins of discussion. We identify the stakeholders and their expectations towards the process. We design a process in which every stage has well defined objectives and can involve all or some of the identified stakeholders.
- Successful implementation at each stage is assured by the quality facilitation. We use different participatory methods (i.e. participatory modeling, role playing games) and the group facilitation techniques. The implementation is guided by a set of values (i.e. neutrality, transparency).
- During the evaluation stage the conclusions can be made and lessons learned. This is not a necessary step but we strongly recommend it to our clients. It allows assessing the quality of the process and thus the legitimacy of the decisions taken during the public participation process.
Following this approach makes it possible to:
- Create favorable conditions for dialogue (i.e. by preparing each stakeholder group for discussion with other stakeholders)
- Construct shared representation of situation or problem (i.e. through participatory diagnosis) and explore future scenarios (i.e. through simulations)
- Define common objectives and agree on how to solve problems (i.e. through action plans).
- Formulate recommendations for decision-makers.