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“Sustainable” Public Involvement? You Betcha!
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

In our world, the notion of “sustainability” might be described as the impacts of a public involvement process, and its linkages to action, over time. This is important because… well… one would hope that we don’t invest ourselves in public involvement initiatives just for the fun it! Public participation is often about changing – or challenging – the status quo. It requires time, energy, and commitment, both on the part of the sponsor and of the participants. If public participation processes are to be more than cosmetic public relations initiatives or “one hit wonders”, then the issue of sustainability is a central one… In this regard, we can set three lofty goals:

  1. Sustaining the energy of public involvement champions: let’s face it, meaningful public involvement has not yet become standard practice. However, change is coming about thanks largely to a smattering of committed individuals who are acting as the drivers of change in their organizations. They need to be recognized, supported and connected because their job is often a difficult and thankless one.
  2. Sustaining individual transformations: participation in a meaningful public involvement process can often lead to changes in attitude and/or behaviour. The key is to create the conditions for the momentum to continue, that is for participants to internalize and apply in their life what they have learned or experienced during the public involvement process.
  3. Achieving sustainable deliberative democracy: the gold standard would be to eventually embed sound public involvement practices in the day-to-day business of our organizations and institutions. If we achieve goals 1 and 2, then this may eventually happen…

– Manon Abud –

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