A System's Approach to Sustainable Development

The facilitation design PROCESS of a planning dialogue supersedes the PRODUCT of the dialogue in importance because without large and enthusiastic public participation the product defies implementation.

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Public Participation (P2) Practice

Even in today’s world of moving away from the traditional “Public Hearing” to seeking greater transparency and inclusiveness in new, more widely acceptable forms of public participation, many designs of public consultation still fall short in achieving their most important goals. Most often this is directly related to how the public is drawn to these processes and engaged in the work.

For more than 15 years we have offered clients consultative services in the design and conduct of public participation processes to assist groups in taking charge of their own destiny and achieving sustainability goals that they themselves identify to improve community economic opportunities and social vitality in environmentally sound ways. We assist groups in taking actions specifically directed toward community resilience and sustainability. These actions are founded upon plans initiated, driven, and completed by the client target group through transparent, consensual, and inclusive public participation practices that are flexible, integrated, and provide environmental protection while advancing the sound and enduring advancement of human communities.

Our team brings a distinctive combination of experience, skills, and abilities to its work. Our public participation tools and strategies are specifically designed to encourage collaborative relationships among ecological, social justice, and economic development advocates and to assist people in thinking broadly across disciplines and other boundaries. Our track record indicates we are successful in helping our clients achieve sound sustainable development awareness and understanding to provide a solid foundation for their dialogue, decision-making, and action planning/implementation through group discussion and consensus building.

Our public participation practice is founded upon a foundation of “transformative facilitation,” which moves the process of public consultation beyond the perception of the duality of right versus wrong. Our experiences in applying transformative facilitation to our own work reinforces our belief that this form of public participation assistance is by far the best way to produce a new population of “change agents” in today’s communities. The greatest triumphs in science and/or policy-setting for example are not triumphs of facts but rather triumphs of new ways of seeing, of thinking, of perceiving, and of asking questions. Through appropriately facilitated dialogue during public consultation processes, our many individual perceptions can be coordinated and integrated into a collective vision of reality. Our intent is to solidify these foundational perspectives in our trainees.

In our facilitator work we use the IAP2 Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation as a guide to insure that all the different elements of truly effective public participation practice are integrated into our engagement processes. This means that our facilitation practice addresses the following issues:

  • Promise the public’s contribution will influence the decision
  • Those affected by a decision have a right to be involved
  • How can participants/stakeholders best participate
  • Provide participants with information they need to participate in a meaningful way
  • Recognize and communicate the needs and interests of all participants
  • Involve those potentially affected by or interested in a decision
  • Communicate to participants how their input affected decisions

Our client work in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) offers public engagement processes a means to effectively guide key determinations affecting the participant’s future that otherwise might be cast away or held captive to unneeded extra discussion and destructive argument. ADR leads to better and often quicker decisions, enhanced certainty, more procedural flexibility, potential cost savings, and other efficiencies.

  • ADR includes a spectrum of techniques involving various combinations of negotiation, facilitation/mediation, and evaluation processes to resolve issues in place of traditional forms of disagreement.
  • ADR involves a third-party neutral (facilitator) who assists the disputing parties of a group in designing and conducting a process to find mutually acceptable solutions to their disputes, provides advice, or directly resolves the dispute, depending on the type of ADR.
  • ADR also encompasses consensus-building processes used to develop policies or regulations or to reach or influence decisions involving many different stakeholders.

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Last Update: 1/1/15
Web Author: Dr. R. Warren Flint