TLDR: Evaluating the effectiveness of stakeholder advisory committee participation in forest management planning in Ontario, Canada


After over a centtldrury in the control of big timber companies, local stakeholder advisory committees are becoming involved in forest management in Canada. How well is it working? This month’s contribution from the IAP2 Canada Research Committee looks at an evaluation of the process and results in Ontario

Robson, Mark & Julie Rosenthal. (2014). Evaluating the effectiveness of stakeholder advisory committee participation in forest management planning in Ontario, Canada. The Forestry Chronicle, 90:3, 361-370.

At the time this article was written, local involvement in forest management activities through stakeholder advisory committees (SACs) was occurring in nine Canadian provinces and was mandatory in five.

This article examines the effectiveness of SACs in this context of forest management planning in one jurisdiction – Ontario. Ontario’s model for SAC participation in forest management planning is that of Local Citizens Committees (LCCs). LCCs number 40 across Ontario and have been active for over 20 years (p. 362). Comprised of a range of stakeholders and Aboriginal people, LCC’s are meant to follow a consensus-based decision making model, are required to report their activities and are subject to audits to review their effectiveness (p. 363). Robson and Rosenthal’s evaluation examines goals of public participation and methods of facilitating success relying upon both quantitative and qualitative information gleaned from provincial audits of the 40 LCCs.

A review of the LCC audits illuminated a variety of challenges with the LCCs including:

  • Inconsistent attendance and participation in LCC meetings and activities;
  • Proximity of participant location to LCC meeting location (remote locations);
  • “lack of resources and/or capacity to participate” (p. 367);
  • Stakeholder fatigue;
  • Complexity of the forest management planning process (p. 366);
  • Technical complexity of the information available to LCC members and public stakeholders;
  • Industry-specific terminology;
  • Effectiveness of communication between the forest management planning team for a forest management unit and the LCC;
  • Potential for underrepresentation of key interests on the LCC; and
  • Lack of general awareness within the public of LCCs and their role in forest management planning, potentially indicating a lack of representation of perspectives in the planning process (p. 367).

A review of the provincial audits showed evidence of evaluation of four socials goals of public participation, namely: “incorporation of public values into decisions, conflict resolution among competing interests, building of trust in institutions and informing and education the public” (p. 368). However, upon review of the audit findings through the lens of the four social goals, Robson and Rosenthal found that there was limited evidence of success in these four areas.

Overall, Robson and Rosenthal concluded that audit protocol that was in place for the LCCs was ineffective in evaluating specific components that define and facilitate success. Three recommendations were made, namely:

  1. Include evaluation components within forest planning manuals.
  2. Consistently report on evaluation components.
  3. Incorporate feedback from LCC audits and public into revised Forest Management Plans (p. 369).

TLDR: Local politicians’ attitudes towards participatory initiatives: a Bulpittian perspective

tldrMcKenna, Dave. (2012). Local Politicians’ attitudes towards participatory initiatives: a Bulpittian perspective, Public Money & Management, 32:2, 103-110.

This article explores how public participation initiatives may be viewed by local politicians in the United Kingdom, based on McKenna’s analysis of existing research on the topic. (Read more) The author acknowledges potential for the applicability of the analysis to other local governments around the globe that are representative in nature.

McKenna outlines several reasons why the outcomes of public participation processes may not be included in policy decisions, including: lack of mechanisms to integrate the outcomes; lack of interest in change and perception that power will be eroded as a result; institutional “norms” that are supportive of inadequate resourcing of participatory initiatives and concern regarding “the validity and legitimacy” of such initiatives; penchant for elected officials to act as managers; and loyalty to the political party (pp. 103-104).

The author focuses on the work of Jim Bulpitt to provide a ‘Bulpittian’ analysis to better understand local politics. The analysis requires focusing on three specific areas: 1) identifying the “élite at the centre of government” (p. 105) who are considered to be key influencers or holders of power; 2) understanding the “established rules, norms and beliefs that guide their behaviour” (p. 105); and 3) determining what issues are of greatest importance to the élite.

McKenna notes five negative perspectives through which local politicians may view public participatory initiatives:

  1. A potential source of conflict / division within a political party; e.g., the results may recommend a politician support a decision that is not generally upheld by his/her party.
  2. An “electoral liability” (p. 107) which could prove deleterious to a political campaign or politician.
  3. A challenge “to the system” (p. 107) that risks undermining the perceived competence of government.
  4. A potential means of “sidelining councillors” (p. 107) by finding a solution to an issue without involvement of the elected official.
  5. A perceived narrowing of decision-making authority.

Conversely, McKenna identifies three perspectives through which local politicians may perceive public participatory initiatives as constructive:

  1. An opportunity for “positive public relations” (p. 107).
  2. A means of enhancing legitimacy of decision-making when public participation outcomes and political interests align.
  3. An opportunity for politicians to “devolve responsibility” (p. 107) on specific matters, particularly those of least interest/importance to the individual, allowing politicians to focus their attention and energy on issues that are of greatest importance to them.

Lastly, the author describes four types of participatory initiatives: consultation (e.g., focus groups, survey panels), direct democracy (e.g., referendums), deliberative initiatives (e.g., policy juries) and co-governance initiatives (e.g., committees, participatory budgeting) (p. 108) which, like those outlined on the IAP2 Spectrum, allow for varying degrees of influence in the decision-making process. Each of these initiatives is considered from the perspective of the political élite, identifying perceived positive and negative attributes. McKenna concludes by noting the importance of understanding the political environment for those who are planning public participation initiatives and suggests that consultation and co-governance initiatives are likely to be the most successful approaches to public participation as they are less likely to be perceived as threatening to the political élite.

KMaydew 2015jpg
shortened by Krista Maydew


Too Long, Didn’t Read


A monthly précis of a significant piece of research in the field of public participation, presented by the IAP2 Canada Research Committee.

“A Model of Conflict Resolution in Public Participation GIS for Land-Use Planning,”Fung, Tung; Zhang, Yongjun (2013) Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design: Vol. 40 (summarized by Jessica Dyck, IAP2 Canada Research Committee)

In this study, Fung and Zhang consider how geographic information systems (GIS) can be used to resolve conflict among stakeholders in land use planning public participation processes.

Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) uses message boards and Google Maps to enable participants to contribute to the conversation and identify specific land areas that are of concern. GIS technicians and planners use this information to create options that will accommodate a wide variety of concerns. Participants have access to a website that accommodates a message board.

A desktop decision support system connected to the data gathered through the participant website and message board is available to planners.

The authors suggest that the “core processes of conflict resolution” in land use planning include the following steps:

  • Participants express and share individual preferences;
  • Planners identify and characterize the preference information; and
  • Planners help participants build consensus through negotiations in an iterative fashion (page 3 / 552).

The authors posit that conflict in land use planning occurs at two levels: a values level and a specifics level. Using Lantau Island in Hong Kong as a theoretical case study, the researchers found that PPGIS can be used to support the “core processes of conflict resolution” (page 3 / 552) at both levels.

A key recommendation from Fung and Zhang is that the use of PPGIS includes stakeholders in “the procedures of preference identification and decision making that are currently dominated by planners” (page 17 / 566).


Designing Public Participation Processes


By Mahtot Gebresselassie

Bryson, J. M., Quick, K. S., Slotterback, C. S. and Crosby, B. C. (2013), Designing Public Participation Processes. Public Administration Review, Vol. 73, pp. 23–34.

The article outlines research and evidence based, cross-disciplinary guidelines for designing public participation to offer guidance to practitioners. The 12 guidelines are grouped into three broad categories for creating, managing, and evaluating public participation activities.

1. Creating: Assess and design for context and purpose

  • When designing public participation, find out if participation is needed and can contribute to solving the problem at hand. Understanding the problem is crucial in designing as “different kinds of problems or challenges call for different solution responses” (P.25).
  • Make sure the public participation process is suitable for the context, both general (social, demographic, political, technological, physical) and specific (stakeholders, applicable mandates, resource availability of the organization). Clarify the purpose by involving stakeholders and regularly revisiting as the context may change when the process unfolds.“[A]rticulating purpose is not a one-shot exercise” (P.27).

2. Managing: Enlist resources and manage the participation

  • It’s important to conduct stakeholder analysis to identify who they are and how best to engage them. Vary approaches throughout the process to make their participation effective.
  • Legitimacy of the participation process is not granted automatically by both inside and outside stakeholders. To ensure legitimacy in the type of engagement and to create interactions that build trust, practitioners need to develop the purpose of engagement along with the public and to clarify the way in which public input will affect decision-making.
  • Successful public participation requires effective leadership. One way to effectively manage a process could be to give responsibility of solving problems to people who are dealing with them.
  • Identify resources needed to carry out the activity. Public participation can create additional resources, for example in the form of new information collected through public input.
  • In order to guide the process, “create an appropriate set of rules and a project management team structure to guide operational decision making, the overall work to be done, and who gets to be involved in decision making in what ways” (P. 28).
  • To increase diversity of participation, advertise the activity; provide language translation, childcare, transportation;and choose convenient time and place for various participants.
  • Power dynamics can happen in the form of competition between local and expert knowledge, or a small group of participants dominating the conversation. Managing it requires the effective integration of different types of knowledge and changing the format of the participation to avoid domination of the process by people who feel comfortable in a certain format.
  • Use various forms of technology to provide technical information to participants, collect their feedback, and enhance their interactions. At the same time, consider the limitations to access to technology.

3. Evaluating: Evaluate and redesign continuously

  • The authors say, “there is no single set of evaluation metrics for participation” (P. 30). Therefore, develop the evaluation process while you clarify the purpose of the public participation activity. Evaluation can examine implementation of the participation process and the impact of participation for decision-making. When there are multiple purposes in the process, focus on the most important outcome to evaluate.
  • Align elements (purpose, type of engagement, methods of engagement, technologies, resources and so on) of the participation process. Failing to do so might affect public trust, among causing other undesirable outcomes.

The article concludes by emphasizing that designing public engagement activities is complex and the detailed 12 design guidelines acknowledge and respond to the complexity.

(Feel free to send us articles that you would like to see in the future edition of this column. Send your suggestions to and include “TLDR” in the subject line.)

TLDR: Stakeholder and Citizen Roles in Public Deliberation


Kahane, David; Loptson, Kristjana; Herriman, Jade; and Hardy, Max (2013) “Stakeholder and Citizen Roles in Public Deliberation,”

Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 9: Iss. 2, Article 2.

Available at: Journal of Public Deliberation

Through their research Kahane et al. provide a map that demonstrates the relationship between ‘stakeholder’ and ‘citizen’ engagement spaces and public deliberation.  With a particular focus on “deliberative public involvement exercises convened by governments as part of policy development” (p. 1), the authors describe “stakeholders” as representatives “of a formally constituted group or organization that has or is thought to have a collective interest” (p. 5), and “citizens” as “functional members of a democratic society by virtue of living within it and being affected by it” (p. 8).

The authors suggest reasons for and against involving stakeholders and citizens, both as separate groups and as a hybrid, and caution practitioners to consider the aforementioned configurations.  One of the observations offered by Kahane et al. to support this caution is that stakeholders are often less likely to adjust their perspectives, given that they feel a responsibility to the group they represent and are more aware of history and policies, as compared to a citizen. Citizens, on the other hand, as individuals are more prone to adjusting their perspective. The authors explore various configurations of stakeholder and citizen participation and suggest that “[w]hen citizens and stakeholder representatives deliberate separately, this also forgoes potentially powerful forms of learning and transformation” (p. 24).  By using several Canadian examples, the authors’ analysis reveals the complexities of public engagement arguing for practitioners to recognize the possible challenges of bringing citizen and stakeholders into the same deliberative space.

As a conclusion to the article, the authors offer questions to assist practitioners in mapping deliberative processes involving stakeholders and citizens. Here is a sample (p. 27-28):

  1. If citizens are to deliberate, with stakeholders contributing as experts and witnesses, how could stakeholders also be engaged in ‘endorsing’ the balance of the overall process or even just of its informational elements?
  2. If stakeholders are to engage in extended duration advisory and decision-making roles how are issues around diversity of representation being addressed?
  3. If there are to be separate, phased deliberative activities for citizens and stakeholders will commitment be given by conveners about how each input relates to others or has influence relative to others?

Submitted by: J. Dyck, IAP2 Canada Research Committee

Too Long, Didn’t Read

tldrWelcome to the IAP2 Canada Research Committee’s solution for TLDR (“Too Long, Didn’t Read”). We are working to serve IAP2’s membership with relevant and accessible content that bridges research and practice.

In this piece we present you with a brief summary of The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Deliberation. Feel free to send us articles that you would like to see in future editions of this column.

Janette Hartz-Karp, and Brian Sullivan. “The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Deliberation,” Journal of Public Deliberation 10 (2014) iss. 1. Accessed April 13, 2015

In this article, Hartz-Karp and Sullivan (2014) suggest that the success of adopting new technologies relies on recognizing their limitations and capitalizing on their strengths. Many online platforms fail to effectively foster deliberative democracy; meaning online engagement often falls short of researcher and practitioner expectations related to:

  • scaling out (get more responses);
  • scaling up (effect change in big and small ways);
  • being inclusive; and
  • being deliberative.

The inherent features of online engagement – self-selection and self-management – make it difficult for inclusiveness of participation as well as implementing rules of engagement that support a deliberative process. However, the authors suggest cost effectiveness and the tool’s (online platform) speed and capacity to scale out are strengths that should not be overlooked in engagement planning. The authors advise that practitioner focus needs to be on the strengths and the opportunities of each online platform. There should be a healthy recognition of each tool’s limitations and consideration given to lessen these impacts.

Hartz-Karp and Sullivan (2014) demystify the dream of creating an online space that functions as well as in-person engagement. Accordingly, they suggest that in order for online platforms to significantly contribute to a truly deliberative engagement initiative, “face-to-face engagement…seems [to be] key” (P.3).

Finally, by working from a place of understanding the more traditional P2 scene, the authors suggest that online platforms can address the challenge of self-management in online engagement. In face-to-face scenarios, they encourage lobby groups to diversify viewpoints in the deliberation process. They suggest replicating this aspect online by encouraging “curators”, those who initiate conversations on an issue, to take on a similar role in the virtual environment. The authors indirectly suggest that this takes advantage of, and lessens the unwanted impact of, the self-management ability of online platforms.

Summary by: IAP2 Canada Research Committee Members Jessica Dyck and Mahtot Gebresselassie