Outcomes of Public Participation
Multi-Process Public Participation Programs
A FIRST CONSIDERATION
IN DESIGNING MULTI-PROCESS DIALOGUE AND DELIBERATION PROGRAMS
POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
As we know, means should be selected to serve ends. As we become
more conscious and intentional about the outcomes of public participation
programs, we can better choose processes and approaches that serve
those ends (see, for example, Appendices
A and B).
Widely diverse rationales exist for public participation programs.
Sometimes there is a desire to inform the public or to get feedback
on existing proposals. Sometimes there is a desire to help the
public engage together in powerfully co-creative citizenship.
I personally am interested in bringing latent community wisdom
to bear on public policy.
Regardless of personal or situational preferences here, it
is in everyone's interests to be able to consider a full range
of possible outcomes in the very earliest stages of public participation
planning. If outcomes are considered first, it is very likely
that multiple process programs will be recognized as necessary
to satisfy the full range of desired outcomes.
The initial list below is far from comprehensive, but I hope
it will serve as a stimulant toward creating an expanding list
of outcome options useful to everyone involved. Please wonder
as you read it: What possible desirable public participation outcomes
are missing here? Note your answers and add them to the dialogue
Note that the categories into which I have clustered the outcomes
are only a rough initial take on how these various potential outcomes
might be grouped. So they, too, are subject to modification.
AN INITIAL LIST OF POSSIBLE DESIRABLE OUTCOMES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Citizens have given input to officials.
Officials know better what citizens think and feel.
Participating citizens have chosen from among options provided
to them by officials.
Public judgment has shaped public policy, public opinion and/or
There has been opportunity for all interested people to participate.
Interest groups feel their voices have been heard.
Lots of citizens feel that their voices have been heard.
Some citizens have had a direct and intense experience of citizenship.
Everyone involved -- including citizens generally -- feel the
process has been fair.
The public believes there has been public involvement.
Social Consensus Outcomes
People have been educated about the issues.
Citizens have come to agree with the policies officials want to
Diverse sectors in the community are "on the same page."
The community is generally and broadly aware that a participatory
process has been happening.
Thousands or millions of citizens have had a vicarious experience
of intense citizenship.
The community feels like it has spoken, like "We the People"
The process offers potential for ongoing collective learning by
the whole community.
The diversity of the forum has been considered adequate by
the community and/or the relevant stakeholder groups
Conflict in the community has been addressed and there is more
The diversity in the community -- or around the issue -- has been
Quality of Output Outcomes
The public is impressed with the quality of the solutions.
Realistic solutions have been chosen that can be readily implemented
within the scope of existing institutions and players.
Recommendations have been developed that can demonstrate measurable
results within a few months or years.
People have been motivated into actions or behaviors that will
serve the common good.
Imaginative solutions and perspectives have been found that excite
people to move beyond what has been done before.
Public policies and programs have resulted that prove to have
long-term, broadly beneficial impacts acknowledged by the whole
The community's capacity for successful self-governance or self-organization
has been enhanced.