Public Involvement Techniques
What distinguishes an amorphous, overly-general public involvement
effort from one that is purposeful, grounded, specific, and productive
is good organization and well-planned outreach. In initiating public
involvement in transportation, agencies must begin with clearly-defined,
project-related goals that focus on the specific issues to be addressed,
the specific kinds of input needed, and the specific public
that needs to be involved. The more specific a public involvement
plan, the greater its chances of producing input an agency can actually
use in decision-making.
Why is organization crucial?
Participation doesn't just happen. Once the what of
an overall strategy is in place, an agency has to determine the
how. Staff needs to carefully orchestrate ways to contact
people, give them the needed information, hear their views, respond
to their comments, and incorporate their concerns into plans and
decisions. Organization establishes a systematic, planned approach
to working with people, so that an agency gets the kinds of information
it needs when it needs them. At the same time, good organization
allows room for flexibility and openness as needed.
Why is outreach essential?
Outreach to all potential participants reaps broad and varied representation.
Often, an initial list of given participants unintentionally
omits important segments of the population. These include people
who are not usually well-represented in the process of planning
or project development, such as minorities, ethnic groups, individuals
with low incomes, the poorly educated, and people with disabilities.
In the past, freight interests did not often participate in planning
and project development. Extra effort may be needed to elicit involvement
by people unaccustomed to participating, because they often have
different needs and perspectives than the majority.
What are appropriate kinds of organization and outreach?
Organization and outreach are project-specific. An agency chooses
judiciously from a varied menu of methods to reach people and bring
them together on the issues. This chapter provides a guide to several
ways to structure an approach:
A. Including people who are underserved by transportation;
B. Bringing a core participation group together;
C. Providing substantive information and establishing methods
of communication; and
D. Taking initial action steps.
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