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Public participation: comparing approaches

Simon French and Clare Bayley

Journal of Risk Research, 2011, vol. 14, issue 2, 241-257

Abstract: Public participation in societal decision-making is becoming more and more common. There have been numerous studies asserting the benefits of involving citizens and stakeholders in decision-making at various levels in government and regulation. However, as several writers have noted, there have been few comparative studies demonstrating the relative advantages and disadvantages of different participation instruments. In this paper, we report a small series of experiments that seek to compare the efficacy of a few methods in a variety of circumstances. We argue that, although such experiments provide indications of the relative merits of participation instruments, a much more substantial and co-ordinated programme is needed. We suggest two components of this programme: first, the development of a public domain knowledge base in which researchers can share, discuss and document their experiences within a common framework that will allow better comparisons; second, a programme of action research in which comparative experiments are attached to 'live' participation exercises on contemporary issues.

Date: 2011
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