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5 Principal Challenges of Public Participation

Implementing the public participation process is vital in a democratic society and fulfil public needs. However, public participation is sometimes constrained by many factors. Exploring the reasons behind the obstruction of the implementation of the public participation process is an important approach to the achievement of effective participation and better results. We analyse the internal and external factors that impede public engagement as follows.

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1 Costly

A major internal challenge in public participation is inadequate financial resources and human resources. Involving the public in decision-making is time-consuming and costly in terms of money and energy. Starting from the planning process, it needs a lot of time to establish a meaning process that can effectively engage people and their thoughts. Administrators already have a heavy workload, so it is challenging for them to spend more time and energy on public engagement. In addition, the arrangement of forums, workshops or public meetings requires adequate funds, long preparation time, and enough staff. Comparing with the benefits, the transaction cost may be even higher. Therefore, conducting a participation project with a low cost is challenging.

 

2 Lack of skilled facilitator

Some administrators who organise the public engagement process are not equipped with engagement skills. They may also have less experience in public participation. Skilled practitioners are critical to the success of participation as they can facilitate the process, maintain a good relationship with citizens, and generate better results. Although some agencies offer external service, courses or workshops to train the administrators about public participation, they are often expensive and do not take the context into consideration. In fact, a simplified engagement process that the practitioner can easily practice is more practical and beneficial.

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3 Low efficiency

Participating in public meetings is usually not a priority for people when competing with work, household or other daily obligations. Less time is available after completing daily chores, which makes the engagement more difficult. Furthermore, traditional public engagement approaches generally take a longer time with less satisfying results, leading to an even lower rate of participation. Thus, increasing the efficiency of the participation approaches without compromising the outcomes is an urgent need.

 

4 Not interested in participation

Another external factor of the low participation level is that the public shows less interest in public matters. How to motivate the citizens, stimulate their interests, and obtain meaningful inputs are the questions that practitioners need to answer. To increase the participation level, we can provide multiple ways and opportunities to them. For example, encouraging the public to participate in public issues related to their daily life or offering rewards for participation are the possible solutions.

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5 Language barrier

In the context where it has a variety of nationalities, culture or language barrier is always a problem. People who do not master the local language are often excluded from public meetings simply due to the language barrier. Especially in an international community, language is the main reason for excluding immigrants and foreigners as one of the marginalised groups.

 

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About The Author

Yunyue Peng

Master student in Nature Management at the University of Copenhagen, focusing on public participation and citizen action in nature conservation and sustainable development.