Public Involvement Techniques
Meetings—formal and informal—are the backbone of a public
participation program. People like and need firsthand opportunities
to discuss agency programs and plans.
Why are meetings important?
Meetings provide a time and place for face-to-face contact and
two-way communication—dynamic components of public involvement
that help break down barriers between people and the agencies that
serve them. Through meetings, people learn that an agency is not
a faceless, uncaring bureaucracy and that the individuals in charge
are real people. Meetings give agencies a chance to respond directly
to comments and dispel rumors or misinformation.
Far from being passive gatherings, meetings are interactive occasions
when people discuss issues of consequence to them and their neighbors,
listen to opposing viewpoints on the issues, and work together for
the common good. Agency staff people who handle public meetings
need to be trained in skills that encourage interaction and also
keep the process focused and productive.
Do agencies have options in organizing meetings?
The particular circumstances of a plan or project determine the
type of meeting that is appropriate, when it is held, the way it
is organized, and how it is conducted. Most meetings work best when
they are adapted to a specific purpose—for instance, for stakeholders
in a proposed project or plan to monitor its progress and effects,
or for an agency to build consensus and support. Because they demand
time and effort from all participants, meetings must be planned
and implemented carefully. Options for organizing meetings are described
on the following pages:
A. Determining the type of meeting;
B. Selecting an organizing feature for a meeting; and
C. Taking initial action steps.
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For more information about the TPCB program, contact Michelle
at FHWA (202-366-9206) or John Sprowls
at FTA (202-366-5362).