“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Lewis Carroll
As an advocate for public involvement and participation for the past 40-years, long before the concept became a “popular” chant for activist, I am still amazed to find some agencies subvert the concept by imposing their “legal requirements” on what should be a “common sense” approach to public engagement. I am always perplexed at what government agencies do to create conflict and concern among stakeholders and then they wonder what went wrong.
Without mentioning any one agency, I am sure you can think of plenty at the local, state and federal levels, many have one thing in common – they fear the public and any involvement they may want. They choose to hide behind their “legal requirements” rather than to “engage in dialogue and involve the public in a collaborative process.” I have come to believe all too often this happens because the agencies think the public wants “shared decision-making” when in essence they want “”shared assessment” of the problem so a better solution or set or solutions can be developed to solve a problem.
Too often it seems easier for the agencies to use the old standby – the D.A.D. approach – we will decide without your input, we will announce it in as technical terms as possible to obfuscate your understanding, and we will defend it – just sue us if you don’t like it.
An agency may “win” in the court of law eventually BUT they always end up losing in the court of public opinion.