This guidance sets out how to plan for participation and choose appropriate participation methods.
There have been many books and pamphlets about democratic reform. What is unusual about this publication is that it provides much needed practical detail, drawing on the experiences of many hundreds of practitioners who have used new methods to involve the public in issues ranging from local planning to nanotechnology. Its starting point is that deepening and strengthening democracy depends on success in learning lessons about why some kinds of participation lead to better and more legitimate decisions, while others do not.
The book shows that greater public involvement can greatly help in addressing some of our most pressing problems, and countering the risks of distrust and alienation. But it also warns that too much participation today is superficial, an exercise in ticking boxes as opposed to good democratic governance, or using public consultation to justify decisions that have already been made.
To their credit, hundreds of public agencies have taken the lead in trying to involve the public more actively. The priority now is to build on that experience and to build confidence that public involvement can lead to better, and more legitimate, decisions.