Public Participation Guide: Online Self-Study Modules
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to work collaboratively with other governments to encourage public participation in environmental decision-making. Although many public participation workshops have been delivered in many areas of the world, USEPA developed online modules to ensure everyone has access to the fundamentals of public participation.
These online modules provide a similar experience to the in-person workshops EPA conducts related to this Guide. These eight videos, workbooks, exercises, and other tools provide a self-study in public participation that can be done in groups throughout the world.
Ways You Can Use These Modules:
- Self-study through use of the videos and workbooks
- In groups using the materials provided
- In facilitated groups with a local facilitator that has received some training
Each module includes the following components:
- Video Instruction. Video presentations by experts, as well as insights and lessons from around the world.
- Workbooks. A workbook filled with information from EPA’s Public Participation Guide accompanies each module.
- Exercises and Discussions. Exercises are designed within each module to illustrate and reinforce the learning objectives.
- Facilitation guide. Instructions and guidance have been created to help leaders facilitate the instruction on the ground.
Module 1: Introduction to Meaningful Public Participation
When a project or decision can have significant impact on a group of people (community), it is important to consider the role that the public may play in making decisions and implementing actions; giving special consideration and attention to vulnerable populations and marginalized communities. However, before we make any promises to our community, it is important to give careful consideration to the specific nature of our project and the opportunities and implications of directly engaging the public.
- Module 1 Video
- Module 1 Facilitation Guide
- Module 1 Participant Workbook
Module 2: Situation Assessments for Public Participation
Before you begin any public participation project, it is essential that you understand the conditions your team will be facing as you proceed. This includes both the opportunities and constraints within your agency and within the larger legal and political environment, as well as the conditions on the ground in the communities you hope to engage.
- Module 2 Video
- Module 2 Facilitation Guide
- Module 2 Participant Workbook
Module 3: Setting Goals for Public Participation
The most important step in any public participation project is establishing clear and achievable goals regarding the public’s role in the project and their potential for influence on the decision.
- Module 3 Video
- Module 3 Facilitation Guide
- Module 3 Participant Workbook
Module 4: Engage all Stakeholder Perspectives and Build Relationships
In public participation, we often use the word “stakeholder”. This includes anyone who could be impacted by the decision, anyone who has an interest in how the decision may impact individuals, a community, or society at large, and anyone who could potentially affect the outcome of the decision.
This is a very broad term and it reminds us that if we are to conduct public participation in a meaningful way, we need to identify and understand the full range of perspectives that are interested in our project.
- Module 4 Video
- Module 4 Facilitation Guide
- Module 4 Participant Workbook
Module 5: Design Public Participation to Meet Your Conditions
The success of any public participation program is largely determined by how thoroughly and thoughtfully it is planned.
- Module 5 Video
- Module 5 Facilitation Guide
- Module 5 Participant Workbook
Module 6: Ensure Successful Meetings
One of the tools we are almost certain to use in public participation is the public meeting. In fact, virtually every project where we work with stakeholders will involve meetings. Good meetings don’t just happen. In fact, the exact opposite is true. When meetings “just happen”, they usually turn out poorly. For a meeting to be truly successful, it must be carefully and thoroughly planned and communicated ahead of time.
- Module 6 Video
- Module 6 Facilitation Guide
- Module 6 Participant Workbook
Module 7: Communicating With Stakeholders
Communicating in a public participation context is really no different than other forms of communication. People are people, and understanding human behavior can help us to be more effective communicators. The good news is that human nature can generally be predicted. The hard part is that communication within public participation is complex because we are often dealing with highly emotional issues and communicating with a wide range of stakeholders.
- Module 7 Video
- Module 7 Facilitation Guide
- Module 7 Participant Workbook
Module 8: Integrating Public Participation Into Your Organization
The approach to public participation presented in the EPA Guide is challenging. To do this well involves a lot of hard work. Sometimes, the challenges are less about knowing what to do, as it is getting all parts of the system to believe that they should do it at all.
USEPA’s Public Participation Guide provides a framework for understanding public participation, a process for approaching effective participation, and a wide range of tools and approaches for implementing successful projects. However, we recognize that it is not always possible or practical to do everything you would like to do in working with your communities.
In many circumstances, we need to proceed more slowly and deliberately and look for opportunities to share information and opportunities to incorporating principles of participation and the value it provides to the agency for our leaders, staff, and communities.
- Module 8 Video
- Module 8 Facilitation Guide
- Module 8 Participant Workbook