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International Cooperation

Public Participation Guide: Internet Resources on Public Participation

Public Participation Ethics, Values, and Principles

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Model, a community model used to facilitate collaboration to address environmental and/or public health issues in distressed communities.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) provides advice and recommendations about broad, cross-cutting issues related to environmental justice, from all stakeholders involved in the environmental justice dialogue. In addition, the NEJAC provides a valuable forum for discussions about integrating environmental justice with other EPA priorities and initiatives, while engaging the community. 

International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation. IAP2 developed these core values to define the aspirations and expectations of public participation processes.

International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) – Code of Ethics for Public Participation Practitioners (PDF) (1 pg, 37K). The IAP2 Code of Ethics is a set of principles to guide public participation practitioners in enhancing the integrity of public participation processes.

National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) – Core Principles for Public Engagement (PDF) (1 pg, 1.8MB).  These principles were developed collaboratively by members and leaders of NCDD, IAP2, the Co-Intelligence Institute, and many others. These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration.

National Consumer CouncilDeliberative Public Engagement: Nine Principles (18 pp, 139K) Exit This background paper explains deliberative approaches to public engagement, when to use deliberative public engagement, and provides nine principles for effective deliberative public engagement.

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Center for Advances in Public Engagement – Public Engagement (PDF) (12 pp, 176K) This November 2008 article from Public Agenda is a primer on public engagement, which involves creating civic capacity for public problem-solving. The article provides ten core principles for public engagement.

Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution Environment/Public Disputes Sector Critical Issues Committee Best Practices for Government Agencies: Guidelines for Using Collaborative Agreement-Seeking Processes (PDF) (27 pp, 65K) Exit This 1997 report was written to serve the needs of the emerging practice of conflict resolution in the public policy arena. It offers eight recommendations for government officials who sponsor consensus processes.

World Bank Strategic framework for mainstreaming citizen engagement in World Bank Group operations Exit The objective of this strategic framework is to mainstream citizen engagement in World Bank Group (WBG)-supported policies, programs, projects, and advisory services and analytics to improve their development results and within the scope of these operations, contribute to building sustainable national systems for citizen engagement with governments and the private sector. 

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Benefits of Public Participation

National Research Council – Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making, 2008. This National Science Academy study concludes that public participation, when done correctly, improves the quality of federal agencies' decisions about the environment. Well-managed public involvement also increases the legitimacy of decisions in the eyes of those affected by them, which makes it more likely that the decisions will be implemented effectively. This link is to the order page for the report, but it allows the reader to read select portions for free.

South African Institute for Environmental Assessment A One Stop Participation Guide: A Handbook for Public Participation in Environmental Assessment in Southern Africa (PDF) (8 pp, 1.2 M) Exit Section 1.5 of the Introduction to this online manual explores the challenges and benefits – to civil society, developers, and decision makers – of conducting public participation as part of the environmental assessment process in the southern Africa region. These challenges and benefits are broadly applicable to many parts of the world and not unique to southern Africa.

National Consumer Council People and Participation: How to put citizens at the heart of decision-making (PDF) (60 pp, 2.1MB)Exit Section 2 of this manual discusses what participation is, why one should do it, and issues and tensions surrounding participation.

U.S Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration manual. The Introduction section of this manual discusses the benefits of public involvement to agency decision makers, including expanding shared baseline knowledge, generating support for the decision, and developing ongoing relationships that will help in implementing decisions.

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Public Participation Process Design

Frameworks for Public Participation

International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Spectrum of Public Participation (PDF) (1 pp, 621K) Exit This Spectrum was designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public's role in any public participation process. The Spectrum consists of five levels of participation and shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern about the decision to be made.

Partnerships Online - Sherry Arnstein’s “Ladder of Citizen Participation” Exit This website introduces and links to the full text of a journal article on Arnstein’s Ladder. Arnstein’s Ladder illustrates eight levels of participation arranged in a ladder pattern with each rung corresponding to the extent of citizens' power in determining the end product.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Spectrum of Public Involvement This website illustrates US EPA’s spectrum of public involvement, which is characterized by five different “outcomes” that result from public involvement in agency decisions. It parallels the IAP2 Spectrum, but is tailored to the specific needs of a regulatory agency.

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation – 4 Streams of Dialogue and Deliberation (PDF) (9 pp, 184K). This framework classifies dialogue and deliberation into four streams based on the organizer's primary intention or purpose and provides information on the most well-known and well-tested methods that have proven effective in each stream.

Planning for Public Participation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – The Model Plan for Public Participation. Developed by the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a public advisory committee providing extramural policy information and advice to the Administrator and other officials of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to guide the EPA’s engagement and interaction with the public on environmental and public health concerns

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Plan and Budget for Public Involvement This 2-page brochure offers suggestions to help with planning and budgeting for public involvement activities and processes.

National Consumer Council People and Participation: How to put citizens at the heart of decision-making (PDF) (60 pp, 2.1MB) Exit Section 3 of this manual discusses key steps for planning a good participatory process.

The Policy Consensus Institute (PCI)Practical Guide to Consensus (PDF) (11 pp, 123K) Exit This guide describes an ideal approach to organizing and conducting a consensus process. It provides a brief overview of what happens in a consensus process, what to do before the process begins, and discusses planning and organizing the process.

U.S Environmental Protection Agency Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration manual. Written for USEPA staff, Stage 1 of this manual describes the importance of and process for conducting an assessment of internal stakeholders to establish public participation goals before engaging external stakeholders. Identifying and acknowledging project goals, objectives, and constraints, and understanding the factors that determine success, are keys to knowing which public participation process to use.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration manual. Stage 2 of this manual describes the process of conducting an assessment of external stakeholders to determine issues to be discussed, how decisions will be made, and the nature and structure of the public participation process.

Public Participation Process Implementation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Moving Towards Collaborative Problem-Solving: Business and Industry Perspectives and Practices on Environmental Justice. This report presents the results of a study conducted on business and industry’s views of environmental justice and companies’ practices when siting or obtaining permits for facilities located in minority and/or low-income communities. This report summarizes the views and perspectives of these companies, and presents practical information on the approaches they have taken to address environmental justice concerns during the siting and permitting processes.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Environmental Justice SCREEN. Mapping and screening tool that provides EPA with a nationally consistent dataset and approach for combining environmental and demographic indicators.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency How to Consult and Involve the Public This brochure offers suggestions on how to conduct consultation and involvement activities, including tips for preparing materials, publicizing events, and having a clear purpose for participation.

Involve People and Participation: How to put citizens at the heart of decision-making (PDF) (61 pp, 2.1MB) Exit Section 4 of this manual discusses implementation of public participation and explores a variety of participatory methods and how they can be used.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Communities. This website offers a 5-step participatory environmental planning framework to help communities reduce their environmental footprint. The website offers tools and other resources for conducting community assessments, performing trends analyses, creating vision statements, and developing and implementing sustainable action plans.

U.S. Department of Transportation - Transportation Planning Capacity Building. This reference guide includes five guidelines for designing a public involvement program as well as five steps for systematically setting up and implementing a public involvement program for a specific plan, program, or project.

New South Wales, Australia, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning Ideas for Community Consultation (PDF) (67 pp, 327K) Exit This report provides information on the skills needed to enhance the success of community consultation at national, regional and local levels. Element 3 of the article provides a four-step process for community consultation. In addition, the report discusses principles for effective community consultation and procedures for making community consultation work.

Action Research Resources Active Democracy Community Consultation Checklist Exit This document was prepared for an on-line course in action research and evaluation and draws on material from a paper prepared for a community consultation workshop. The document lists some important issues to take into account during the planning and implementation of a community consultation process. It is organized around three themes: contextual issues, style (assessment), and practice (implementation).

Public Participation Process Evaluation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency How to Evaluate Public Involvement This brochure offers reasons for and consideration on how to evaluate public involvement activities and processes.

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Public Participation Skills and Behaviors

U.S. National Parks Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program Community Tool Box. This page of the website provides basic information on facilitation skills and behaviors, including active listening, brainstorming, breakout groups, flip charts, and ice breakers.

Bonner Curriculum- Facilitation 101 (PDF) (11 pp, 125K) Exit This resource provides a basic overview of facilitation and a facilitator’s duties, techniques, behaviors, and leadership skills. Using Group Process Techniques to Improve Meeting Effectiveness Exit This article discusses principles for more effective meetings. It provides a list of considerations for meeting planning, including the type or purpose of the meeting and where it falls in the decision process. It also provides tips for matching specific tools or techniques to meeting types or agenda items.

Mind Tools - Active Listening – Hear What People Are Really Saying. This website presents five key elements of active listening, which is an essential public participation, facilitation, and negotiation skill. 

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Public Participation Toolkits

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – The Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Roadmap - 10-Step Plan to Improve Community Environment and Health, developed for EPA's former Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program, will provide you and your community with a process to learn about local environmental and environmental health risks and impacts, build the community consensus necessary to take effective action, mobilize a community partnership to take action to reduce impacts and risks, and build long-term capacity within your community to understand and reduce environmental impacts and risks.

International Association for Public Participation Public Participation Toolbox (PDF) (15 pp, 297K) Exit This tool box is organized around three groups of techniques: for sharing information, to compile and provide feedback, and to bring people together. Each technique is briefly defined and discussed in terms of its promise and potential pitfalls.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Community Involvement Toolkit. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide US EPA staff with a range of tools and techniques for involving communities in cleanup of Superfund (hazardous waste) sites. Although each tool is discussed in the context of the Superfund program, the tool kit has value for others seeking information on specific tools.

Victoria, Australia, Department of Sustainability and Environment Effective Engagement Toolkit. Exit This toolkit consists of is a list of tools for assisting in the planning, implementation and evaluation of community engagement activities. Each tool listing includes a detailed description of the tool’s objectives, resources required to use the tool, and a discussion of the tool’s strengths and weakness. The site also includes references for further exploration.

U.S. Department of Transportation Transportation Planning Capacity Building. This toolkit is focused on public involvement in transportation projects. It is organized around four themes: informing people through outreach and organization; involving people face-to-face through meetings; getting feedback from participants; and using special techniques to enhance participation. Each theme includes a description of key tools, why they are useful, and how they might be combined with other techniques.

Griffith University Urban Research Program – The Citizen Science Toolbox.  This toolbox is a free resource of principles and strategies to enhance meaningful stakeholder involvement in decision-making. It includes descriptions of more than 60 community involvement tools, case studies, and an annotated bibliography.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) - Strengthening Participation for Development Results: An Asian Development Bank Guide to Participation. Exit This toolkit contains guidance on what constitutes “adequate consultation,” for ADB-assisted activities and contains operational guidelines for participatory development. Included are nine tools specific for consultation and participation.

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Specific Public Participation Tools

Tools to Inform:

Information Kiosks
Cammax Limited – A Bite-sized Guide to Kiosk Deployment (PDF): This e-book contains 9 key factors that take you through the different stages involved in selecting and deploying a kiosk, encouraging you to carefully consider the various factors involved along the way.

Public Meetings
The Ohio State University Extension – Planning and Conducting Effective Public Meetings (PDF) (5 pp, 38 K, About PDF). This fact sheet provides ideas for how to prepare for a successful public meeting.

On-line Networks and Electronic Tools

NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement Armchair Involvement: Practical Technology for Improving Engagement  (65 pp, 1.2 M, About PDF)Exit This report offers principles for and challenges associated with using electronic technologies for public participation. It includes an extensive discussion (starting on page 28) of tools for Armchair Involvement, which is defined as technologies that enable citizen engagement on their own terms, including “from their own armchair.” While most of these tools are focused on informing the public, many can also be used to obtain information from the public.

Tools to Obtain Input:

Appreciative Inquiry
Case Western Reserve University, The Weatherhead School of Management Appreciation Inquiry (AI) Commons. Exit This website provides of academic resources and practical tools on AI.

National Charrette Institute Charrettes 101: Dynamic Planning for Community Change Exit This guide discusses what separates charrettes from other planning processes and identifies the elements of successful charettes.

Focus Groups
Lehigh University – Conducting a Focus Group. This website describes the purpose of focus groups and provides instructions for each of the three main phases of focus groups: planning, conducting, and post-focus group actions.

Study Circles
Australia Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. This website Exit provides an introduction to study circles and provides additional resources for learning about the study circles tool.

World Café
The World Café. This website provides information on the design principles for planning and organizing a World Café. It also includes hosting guidelines and other resources for planning a World Café.

Tools for Consensus Building:

Citizen Advisory Boards
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Community Advisory Groups Toolkit This guide provides information on the advantages of Community Advisory Groups as well as thorough instructions on forming a representative Community Advisory Group, writing mission statements, and developing operational principles.

Citizen Juries
The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Process Citizen Jury Handbook (PDF) (112 pp, 611K) Exit This handbook provides a thorough explanation on the planning and key elements of a Citizen Jury project as well as sample documents.

Consensus Workshops
LEI, The Hague – Consensus Conference Manual. This manual (PDF) (40 pp, 405K) Exit describes the tool, its practical applications, and provides step-by-step guidelines for organizing consensus conferences.

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Non-traditional tools

Participatory Theatre
Search for Common Ground Participatory Theater for Conflict Transformation Training manual (PDF) (52 pp, 3.4MB) Exit This manual defines Participatory Theatre and describes its different styles, including debate theatre, invisible theatre, image theatre, and playback theatre. Although the manual focuses on participatory theatre as a conflict transformation tool, it also can be used as a public participation tool.

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Public Participation Case Studies

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Community Voices on Environmental Justice Video Series. Video series featuring federal and local government officials, non-profit leaders, and students who tell stories about the lessons that they have learned over their time working on environmental justice.

ReGenesis Project - Spartanburg, SC  The ReGenesis Project serves as an example of the effective use of a collaborative problem solving approach by citizens to achieve extraordinary outcomes such as cleaning up two Superfund sites; managing vacant properties and brownfields; and conducting community design charettes.

Westside Specific Plan - National City, CA  The Westside Specific Plan demonstrates the positive outcomes of collaboration among community, environmental and local government interests which resulted in a successful neighborhood planning process. (Click on video learning tool.)

New South Wales Government, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. This website includes a number of case studies Exit pertaining to public participation pertaining to stormwater management, including:

  • Bronte Catch Citizens Jury. This is a detailed case study that describes why and how a citizens jury was used to improve water quality at Bronte Beach in New South Wales. It is a good example of the Involve level of public participation.
  • Circus West Street Theatre. This is a detailed case study that describes the use street theater to deliver messages on stormwater pollution to community members who may not have been receptive to conventional educational methods. It is a good example of the Inform level of public participation.

The World Bank World Bank Participation Sourcebook (PDF) (280 pp, 21MB) Exit This sourcebook contains case studies on a range of participatory practices around the world. It also includes practice pointers in enabling the poor to participate and an appendix of methods and tools.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Negotiation and Mediation Techniques for Natural Resource Management: Case Studies and Lessons Learned (PDF) (76 pp, 1.6MB) Exit This manual takes a participatory approach to building citizen capacity to manage and resolve natural resource conflicts in Africa. It includes two case studies: one pertaining to wildlife management in Namibia; the other involving a community forestry conflict in Gambia. Both provide examples of the Collaborate level of public participation.

Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe. This website Exit features a number of case studies from Eastern Europe pertaining to the use of environmental mediation as a tool for public participation and conflict resolution.

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Public Participation Articles, Papers, and Guidebooks

Centre for Advances in Public Engagement Framing for Deliberation (PDF) (8 pp, 89K) Exit This paper presents research on the impacts of different types of issue framing on the capacity and willingness of diverse groups to engage in productive dialogue and deliberation.

Centre for Advances in Public Engagement Beginning with the End in Mind: A Call for Goal-Driven Deliberative Practice (PDF) (20 pp, 192K) Exit This paper includes a discussion (beginning on page 4) of the Six Goals of Public Deliberation, which include issue learning, improving democratic attitudes, improving democratic skills, improving community action, improving institutional decision-making, and improving community problem-solving.

Public Conversations Project – Fostering Dialogue Across Divides (PDF) (45 pp, 256K) (Free site registration required.)  This guidebook provides a philosophically grounded approach to dialogue. Dialogue is defined as a conversation in which people who have different beliefs and perspectives seek to develop mutual understanding. The guidebook also includes instructions on planning, designing, and facilitating dialogue.  

Interaction Associates From Conflict to Consensus Exit This brief white paper discusses three critical tasks for leaders in moving groups from conflict to consensus.

National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) – Resource Guide on Public Engagement (PDF) (20 pp, 2.3M). This on-line resource manual provides descriptions of and links to a number of resources recommended by NCDD, including how-to guides and manuals, handy tools for facilitators, articles on public engagement, on-line engagement resources, as well as information on core principles for public engagement and information on NCDD’s “Streams of Practice.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration manual. This manual provides detailed guidance on various of public participation, including benefits to sponsor agencies, conducting situation assessments, implementing the process, and benefiting from the results of the process.

Mekong Partnership for the Environment (funded by USAID) – Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment in the Mekong RegionExit This resource is the product of intensive collaboration and coordination to address a common challenge of achieving more meaningful and effective public participation in the EIA process in the Mekong Region. The Guidelines are intended to contribute to an increased understanding of EIA for all stakeholders so that the benefits of development are shared equitably among all members of society – and so that no one is left behind.

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Examples of additional resources to support equitable public participation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Environmental Justice Small Grants Program. The EJ Small Grants Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations to build collaborative partnerships, to identify the local environmental and/or public health issues, and to envision solutions and empower the community through education, training, and outreach.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreements Program. EJ Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding for eligible applicants for projects that address local environmental and public health issues within an affected community.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Environmental Justice Showcase Communities. The U.S. EPA committed $1,000,000 to address environmental justice challenges in ten communities across the nation. The successes and lessons learned in these demonstration projects helped guide the design and implementation of future Environmental Justice projects and helped EPA increase its ability to address local environmental challenges in more effective, efficient, and sustainable ways. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreements (SEJCA). Developed by EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, with input from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), to support projects that utilize collaborative problem solving to address environmental and public health issues, such as childhood lead poisoning and exposure to air pollution. The purpose of this program was to promote environmental justice in State government activities and to advance strategies that result in improvements in public health and the environment.


For additional information on EPA's Public Participation Guide, contact:
Shereen Kandil
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460