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Using Social Goals To Evaluate Public Participation In Environmental Decisions


  • Thomas C. Beierle


The need to increase public participation in environmental decision-making is receiving renewed attention at all levels of government. However, there are few approaches to evaluating these processes that address the question: What are we getting from public participation? This article proposes one way to answer this question using a framework that evaluates the outcomes of participatory processes using a set of "social" goals. These social goals are: 1) educating the public; 2) incorporating public values, assumptions, and preferences into decision making; 3) increasing the substantive quality of decisions; 4) fostering trust in institutions; 5) reducing conflict; and 6) making decisions cost-effectively. Although these goals apply to public participation writ large, there are a limited number of formalized mechanisms available to public agencies for involving the public. The article matches these six social goals to the participatory mechanisms by which they might be achieved. It concludes with areas for further research suggested by the framework. Copyright 1999 by The Policy Studies Organization.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas C. Beierle, 1999. "Using Social Goals To Evaluate Public Participation In Environmental Decisions," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 16(3-4), pages 75-103, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revpol:v:16:y:1999:i:3-4:p:75-103

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    4. Walter, Alexander I. & Helgenberger, Sebastian & Wiek, Arnim & Scholz, Roland W., 2007. "Measuring societal effects of transdisciplinary research projects: Design and application of an evaluation method," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 325-338, November.
    5. Éric Montpetit, 2003. "Public Consultations in Policy Network Environments: The Case of Assisted Reproductive Technology Policy in Canada," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 29(1), pages 95-109, March.
    6. Berthomé, Guy-El-Karim & Thomas, Alban, 2017. "A Context-based Procedure for Assessing Participatory Schemes in Environmental Planning," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 113-123.
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    8. Deng, Chung-Yeh & Wu, Chia-Ling, 2010. "An innovative participatory method for newly democratic societies: The "civic groups forum" on national health insurance reform in Taiwan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 896-903, March.
    9. repec:spr:waterr:v:32:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s11269-017-1875-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Seungho Lee & Gye-Woon Choi, 2012. "Governance in a River Restoration Project in South Korea: The Case of Incheon," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 26(5), pages 1165-1182, March.
    11. Paola Gazzola & Alessandro Rinaldi, 2016. "Reflecting on SEA’s Usefulness: A Case Study on Italy," Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management (JEAPM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 18(04), pages 1-24, December.
    12. Hajjar, Reem & Kozak, Robert A., 2015. "Exploring public perceptions of forest adaptation strategies in Western Canada: Implications for policy-makers," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 59-69.
    13. Santos, Rui & Antunes, Paula & Baptista, Gualter & Mateus, Pedro & Madruga, Luisa, 2006. "Stakeholder participation in the design of environmental policy mixes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 100-110, November.
    14. Beierle, Thomas & Cayford, Jerrell, 2001. "Evaluating Dispute Resolution as an Approach to Public Participation," Discussion Papers dp-01-40, Resources For the Future.
    15. Ngar-yin Mah, Daphne & Hills, Peter, 2014. "Participatory governance for energy policy-making: A case study of the UK nuclear consultation in 2007," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 340-351.
    16. Carlsson, Julia & Eriksson, Ljusk Ola & Öhman, Karin & Nordström, Eva-Maria, 2015. "Combining scientific and stakeholder knowledge in future scenario development — A forest landscape case study in northern Sweden," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 122-134.
    17. Abelson, Julia & Eyles, John & McLeod, Christopher B. & Collins, Patricia & McMullan, Colin & Forest, Pierre-Gerlier, 2003. "Does deliberation make a difference? Results from a citizens panel study of health goals priority setting," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 95-106, October.

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