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5.1 When Participation Works, What Does It Accomplish?
5.2 Design a Framework for Participation: Overview
5.3 Develop the Participation Plan
5.4 Work With Regions and Districts
5.5 Work With Other Agencies
5.6 Work With Interest Groups
5.7 Work With Advisory Committees
5.8 Prepare a Participation Summary
5.9 Hold the Door Open for Continued Participation

Participation is instrumental to ensure that planning will work towards reflecting the priorities and interests of all major groups and that they will be committed to playing their role in translating planning into action. Most public agencies agree with the principle of inviting citizens and interest groups to participate in strategic planning. But participation demands preparation, management, diplomacy, time, money, and hard work!

Your challenge is to define who the different interest groups are, and then to interact effectively with each of them. Many forms of participation, from passive to active, can be appropriate in different circumstances and with different people. But when participation is not handled well, it can turn into a confrontation over competing ideas and interests. Your aim is to prevent this from happening by learning and practicing the principles of effective participation, as summarized in this chapter.

By inviting participation, your forestry agency will never satisfy everyone. On the other hand, you have to avoid the isolation that leads to bad choices. You have to encourage partnerships that go beyond what any forestry agency can do alone.

5.1 When Participation Works, What Does It Accomplish?

The interest groups are the individuals and organizations who claim rights and interests in the ways that forests are used and managed, now and in the future. As noted in preceding chapters, strategic planning is less useful when done for interest groups than when done by them. Key interest groups include:

· Large numbers of mainly rural people who depend on trees and forests to provide products and services for their subsistence (e.g., fuelwood, construction materials, food products, medicinal plants, and the like);

· Private businesses - both large and small - whose incomes derive entirely or in part from the use of forest goods and services;

· Environmental, educational, scientific, and related categories of NGOs;

· The administration and personnel in government ministries and agencies whose policies and programs affect forests.

The above interest groups are separated from each other by differences in power and influence, attitudes and values, and education and outlook. Almost always, they have different answers to "Trees and forests for whom and for what?" The purpose of having them participate in strategic planning for forests is to create a two-way exchange about (1) what they know, (2) what they value and believe, (3) what they must have in order to support chosen goals and strategies, and (4) what responsibilities they will accept for forest management.

When people see themselves as gaining or losing something in relation to forests, your agency must demonstrate the fairness of its planning and decision-making. This is particularly true when some people believe they are losing while others are gaining. If it is to be perceived as fair, the planning process must be highly visible and open. People must be able to see how the planning is done in order to believe that it is equitable.

The second and related principle of fairness is that all groups must have access to your agency and its planning process. If your agency director and planning team socialize regularly with an industry group but not with other groups, your planning process will not appear to be fair. When the amount of access is unequal, people assume that the amount of influence is unequal, as well.

Therefore, highly visible ways of participating must be made available so that people know how, where, and when to participate if they choose to do so. You try to have all types of interest groups represented among your planning participants, even if it is difficult to know how much importance to give to each group. Secondly, you want all groups to have access to the planning team and its leaders. Admittedly, this can be very challenging where communication is poor, where there is little history of participation in public planning, and where the administrative culture is unfavorable. Yet when participation in strategic planning works well, it holds out the promise of attractive results (Box 23).

5.2 Design a Framework for Participation: Overview

The participation of interest groups in strategic planning is not a casual matter to be organized at the last minute. On the contrary, it takes considerable preparation to know when and how to invite it, apply it, and respond to it. The main details are:

· Defining who the interest groups are in the different stages of planning, and finding effective means of seeking their participation in those stages;

· Defining the information that interest groups need from your agency, and vice versa, for participation to be productive;

· Anticipating the issues and conflicts that will arise, and how to handle them; and

· Preparing a participation plan that addresses the preceding points.

Your ideal first step is to hold a series of interviews, community meetings, and focus groups to identify the pressing issues in forest use and conservation as perceived by organized groups and individual citizens. This is done in the forest regions, as well as in the main cities. This initial fact-finding (also known as "scoping") is the time to assess (1) what the issues will be during the rest of the planning exercise, (2) how the different interest groups feel about these issues, (3) which people hold the keys to the problems and solutions, and (4) what kinds of participation will be desirable and feasible.

Box 23. When Participation is Successful, It Offers Attractive Results.....

1. PROVIDES OPENNESS (TRANSPARENCY), FAIRNESS, AND ACCOUNTABILITY. This saves the planning from criticism by helping to make the process legitimate, credible, and socially responsive.

2. STRENGTHENS THE PLANNING BY INCREASING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF INFORMATION AND IDEAS. Participatory planning is a means of communication. Through it, people provide facts, questions, perceptions, and opinions. This increases the quantity and accuracy of the "information" that goes into planning.

3. PROMOTES CONSIDERATION OF A BROAD RANGE OF INTERESTS IN FORESTS. Participation of a wide diversity of people helps a country discover the variety of wants, needs, and preferences in forest conservation and development.

4. ALLOWS DISAGREEMENTS AND COMPLAINTS TO BE EXPRESSED EARLY AND OPENLY. Participants who disagree on goals and strategies have the opportunity to discuss them. In planning, certain disagreements can be negotiated before they grow into major conflicts.

5. INFORMS INTEREST GROUPS ABOUT THE REALITY OF DIFFICULT CHOICES. By inviting outside participation, a forestry agency strives to get other people to understand its issues and problems. In the long run, this can help build political and citizen support.

6. INCREASES ACCEPTANCE OF PLANNING AND THE DECISIONS THAT RESULT FROM IT. Through participatory planning, a forestry agency increases the probability that the plan will be accepted at the conclusion of discussions ("the dialogue") about it. The participants who work in the planning develop an ownership of it, and this helps create the commitments for successful implementation.

The early definition of problems and issues can be one of your most difficult tasks in strategic planning because:

· The proposed solution for one group's issue is the problem for another group. To illustrate, the farmers' group that wants free seedlings is a problem for the private nurseries that want to sell them. The rural settlement that wants legal hunting rights in the forest is opposed by the NGO that wants this land for wildlife conservation.

· Many people will not say what they feel, especially in the presence of elites. It can require special intermediaries to bring out issues at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Leaders of NGOs, local governments, community associations, etc., are themselves elites who do not necessarily speak for the people they claim to represent.

For these reasons, it can be important to contact people who are not in organized groups. Unfortunately, many planning teams feel obliged to interact with group leaders only. In other cases, people in the communities will not speak out if a government official is present, particularly in a setting of illegal activities (e.g., game poaching and clandestine logging). This poses an obvious problem for choosing who to send on the fact-finding teams. Sometimes you avoid sending government personnel and rely instead on neutral intermediaries. This refers to independent advisors, civic or religious leaders, respected teachers, and the like.

Following the initial fact finding, you may want to organize one or more advisory committees to work with the planning team. Frequently, a citizens advisory committee is set up separately from a technical advisory committee. The technical committee can be an inter-agency mix of professionals and staff, perhaps joined by representatives of the key interest groups. The citizens committee can be a cross-section of community and civic leaders who are well respected.

The choice of people for these committees is not easy where political, ethnic, and other kinds of tensions divide a society. You have no formula other than to learn from committee structures that have worked in the past, either with your agency or in another context.

In small countries, the staff of your forestry agency can usually name all of the interest groups. But in other settings, the number of environmental and rural NGOs runs into the hundreds. This makes it more complicated to design a framework for participation. The means of identifying interest groups is then a combination of several approaches (Box 24).

Several studies conclude that, beyond a certain point, the list of key interest groups does not change, no matter how many additional search techniques you apply. On the other hand, the participation of citizens is a more open-ended selection.

In designing your participatory framework, you need to think carefully about who should be active in the different planning stages. For convenience, you should recognize different groups and levels of participants, such as:

1. Administrators and staff in your agency's central office;

2. Administrators and staff in the your agency's subordinate offices, e.g., regions and districts;

3. Administrators and staff in other agencies whose policies and programs interact with those of your forestry agency, or which affect forests;

4. High-level officials such as ministers and cabinet officers;

5. Leaders of forest products industries, environmental groups, peasant cooperatives, indigenous societies, workers associations, women's associations, and other NGOs;

6. Individual members of the organized groups and identifiable interests in (#5) preceding; and

7. Citizens not identified as members of organized groups.

Box 24. Approaches for Identifying Interest Groups

1. SELF-IDENTIFICATION. Some groups and individuals come forward and ask to participate in the planning. For this to happen, the agency makes prior announcements about the planning through highly publicized meetings, coverage in news media, and other information campaigns. However, the approach typically fails to reach people in small towns and remote regions. Secondly, the approach works best for people who already have good access to the agency, but not for people without these contacts.

2. STAFF IDENTIFICATION. Agency staff who have worked in an area for some time can identify groups and individuals who have interests in forest issues, and who are well informed about them. Often, the agency's field staff are the richest source of suggestions if the agency is seeking participation at decentralized levels.

3. CROSS-AGENCY IDENTIFICATION. This can be important when key problems are conflicting policies and the limits of agency authority. For example, your forestry agency can request the agency for land reform not only to represent itself in the planning, but also to recommend farmers and settlers who should participate, as well. The same approach is applied for other cross-agency relationships.

4. IDENTIFICATION THROUGH ADVISORY COMMITTEES. Your technical and citizens advisory groups can be asked to recommend planning participants. However, you need to insure the diversity of the people they recommend.

5. IDENTIFICATION THROUGH WRITTEN RECORDS. Most forestry agencies keep records of permit holders, attendees at important meetings, extension contacts, and other forms of registration. In many cases, these records identify the people directly affected by agency strategies. These records can be a means to choose planning participants, sometimes randomly so that their views will be representative.

During the first stages of planning, sometimes only the forestry agency (i.e., groups #1-2) defines the terms of reference, lays out the time schedule, and designs the participation strategy. However, a big mistake is to narrow the planning by not reaching other potential participants, even in these early stages.

The visibility and usually also the organization of the planning can improve by including people from categories #3-5 almost from the beginning. This is particularly true when the planning will cover issues that are controversial. From the start, the planning effort has to be politically credible. The contributions of the technical and citizens advisory committees can be very helpful at this point. Worksheet 30 will help you link participation with the stages of planning.

As indicated in Box 25, planning leaders should think about the desired exchange of information that needs to occur between the agency and the planning participants. This clarifies your methods of participation, and helps you organize for the planning. Usually, you look to interest groups to define perspectives on what they perceive as improvement goals to use and protect forests. From communities and citizens, you need responses to these ideas in terms of who will be affected, and suggestions on how to make the strategies more acceptable.

The best mix of participation approaches is determined by the special circumstances of your planning environment. You carefully review these circumstances in deciding how you will structure the participation (Box 26).

5.3 Develop the Participation Plan

Suppose that you have completed the work described in the preceding section. You held a series of interviews, community meetings, and focus groups to identify issues that will be prominent in the planning. You are able to recognize the diversity of interest groups, and you have preliminary ideas about how to involve them in the planning. In particular, you are able to recommend people to participate in the technical and citizens advisory committees. You have proposed a sequence of information exchanges between the planning participants and the agency. Finally, you have studied the special circumstances of your planning context as a guide to choosing participation approaches.

At this point, your ideas and proposals should come together in the form of a written participation plan. The participation plan is developed in consultation with your agency's subordinate offices and with the other agencies, interest groups, and citizens who will participate in the planning. You want the planning to be visible and politically accountable. This means asking people if they can be satisfied with the proposed process before you actually implement it.

Box 25. Information Exchange Between Your Agency and the Planning Participants

Planning Stage

Information Flow: From Agency to Participants

Information Flow: From Participants to Agency

Pre-planning and initiation

· Purpose and scope of the planning

· Types of issues that will be addressed

· Opportunities for participation

· How different individuals define and interpret issues

· Intensity of feelings on issues

· Who wants to participate, and in what ways?

Agency's mission

· Agency's own statements of who it is and what it does

· Critique of the agency's statements

· Suggestions for change

Goals and objectives

· Specific improvement goals and targets

· Reactions to the goals as stated

· Suggested additions and deletions

Action strategies

· Proposed changes in laws, regulations, agency organization, policies, programs, and projects

· Perceived impacts of the actions

· Additional factors that should be considered

· Revisions that can make the actions more acceptable

Negotiate issues

· Legal and procedural frameworks that determine the limits of available solutions

· Interests and positions of the different interest groups

· Ranges of options, and how to expand them

Strategy implementation, monitoring, and evaluation

· Implementation plan

· Proposed roles and responsibilities of the interest groups as agency partners

· Reaction on feasibility

· Suggested modifications

· Agreement (or not) to the final plan and to later evaluation of it

Source: Adapted from J.L. Creighton, 1981, The Public Involvement Manual, Abt Books, Cambridge, MA, pp. 63-65.

Box 26. Choosing Participation Methods in Relation to Special Circumstances

Circumstances or Context

Implications for Participation

Your agency is unable or unwilling to provide strong management support for the planning

Obligates a minimum participation approach, and use of mainly traditional methods (e.g., meetings).

Your agency's credibility is low, or its past planning record is poor

Apply only the easiest participation strategies until they are mastered; do not attempt approaches that are beyond your agency's capacity to manage.

Your agency's resources for the planning are very limited

Multiply the efforts by inviting selected "neutral" individuals or groups to co-sponsor the planning; seek joint planning opportunities in the context of other programs and initiatives.

Short or long duration of the planning period

A short planning process requires extensive preplanning and preparation; a long process requires continuous visibility (e.g., via newsletters, media events, and the like).

Technical complexity

Often demands a good technical advisory committee; can be an opportunity to build inter-agency relationships.

Small or large geographical coverage

Potential for workshops, meetings, and face-to-face discussions in small areas; participation events have to be repeated in different places in large areas.

Level of interest in forest issues

Where interest is low, use highly visible media announcements, public meetings, and information campaigns. Where interests are intense and competing, use conflict negotiation in workshops, advisory committees, and mediation sessions.

Hostile interest groups

May require prolonged pre-planning to give hostile groups an opportunity to express themselves early. May demand early mediation approaches to avoid larger problems later.

Source; Adapted from J.L. Creighton, 1981, The Public Involvement Manual, Abt Books, Cambridge, MA, pp. 77-78.

As indicated in Box 27 (and Worksheet 31), you can present the proposed participation activities in a matrix to allow for easy review and comment. The sequence of activities to accommodate the participation can be organized in a schedule, Box 28 (and Worksheet 32).

You develop the participation plan for comment by your agency's director, and usually also by the technical and citizens advisory committees. Worksheet 33 is a guide to help you think about the plan's contents and structure.

Box 27. Elements in a Participation Plan, XYZ Forestry Department

Activity or Event


1. Inter-agency workshop to recommend special analyses to support the planning.
Proposed time: Early March
Responsible: Director. XYZ Forestry Dept

Tentatively announce the broad scope and purpose of the planning in order to assess responses. Try to assess who will be active, and who will resist. Identify ongoing planning in other agencies. Identify key persons and information sources.

2. National news releases covering the strategic planning.
Proposed time: Early March, with follow-ups through July
Responsible: A. Marcos. Chief of Public Affairs

Raise the planning to a high profile in the capital and regions. Stress inter-agency cooperation and participation of NGOs. Make it clear where, when, and how people can participate. Include interviews and photos that represent the different regions.

3. Fact-finding in several forest communities, South Region
Proposed time: March-May
Responsible: B. Gutierrez, social worker for Save the People (agency "partner")

Determine how the indigenous communities in South Region feel about forest concessions. Who supports, who opposes, and why? What are the likely demands they will make on the agency? What are the arguments for and against a preplanning workshop on this in South Region?

4. Environmental scoping session
Proposed time: Simultaneously with this year's protected areas conference
Responsible: J. Salazar. Chief of Environmental Affairs

Learn latest positions of NGOs on forest concession policy. Invite selected individuals to one-day scoping session at XYZ Forestry Dept. (in June/July) to suggest improvement goals for sustainable forest management. Involve the technical advisory committee.

5. Continue as above

6. Continue as above

A good planning team schedules periodic reviews along the way to determine if the participation is effective. Perhaps you overestimated participants' interest in some areas, and underestimated it in others. Or perhaps you relied too much on large meetings, but too little on small-group negotiations. The review is your feedback to help you redirect the participation through the remaining parts of the planning cycle. This is the continuous improvement you seek, following the main theme of PART ONE.

Box 28. Schedule of Participation in the Strategic Planning, XYZ Forestry Department

Pre-planning and initiation (March-August):

1. Fact-finding in several forest communities, South Region.

2. Inter-agency workshop on special analyses to support the planning.

3. Environmental scoping sessions with NGOs.

4. Appoint technical and citizens advisory committees.

5. Determine the needed information exchanges between the agency and planning participants.

6. Prepare terms of reference for the strategic planning.

7. Circulate the terms of reference for review and comment.

8. Prepare national news releases to announce the strategic planning.

9. Develop format for bi-monthly newsletter to report on the planning.

10. Set up a system for documenting participation in future planning stages.

11. Prepare a report summarizing participation activities to date.

Review agency's mission (September-October):

1. Prepare slide show about the agency and its mission for future presentations

2. Prepare summary report of agency's accomplishments (in the last 5 years) for future presentations

3. Draft short mission statement for review and comment

4. Conduct workshops on agency's mission for advisory committees, inter-agency group, and meetings at regional offices. Summarize responses.

5. Revise the mission statement with help of the advisory committees.

6. Circulate revised mission statement for review and comment.

7. Continue with newsletter and media coverage

8. Conduct a review session to evaluate participation effectiveness to date, and adjust participation plan for the next planning stages.

Goals and objectives:
(continue, same format)

Action strategies:
(continue, same format)

Negotiate issues:
(continue, same format)

Strategy implementation, monitoring, and evaluation:
(continue, same format)

5.4 Work With Regions and Districts

Two main advantages of decentralized planning are: (1) it empowers regional, district, and other sub-national offices with their own improvement goals, and (2) it allows these sub-national units to take advantage of their special priorities, capabilities, and forest conditions. The more that planning is about empowerment, the more that it has to rely on a bottom-up process. But for the decentralized approach to work effectively, you need to resolve several issues (Box 29).

Box 29. Success Factors in Decentralized Planning

1. DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY. Decentralized planning starts with authorization from your director. The principal element in this is trust, accompanied by clear and practical definitions of what is to be planned at sub-national levels. If this has not happened in the past, what could make it happen now?

2. RESOURCES FOR THE PLANNING. The lower-level units must control adequate resources in terms of coordinators, advisory committees, support staff, travel budgets, and the like. The farther you move down the administrative ladder, the less likely you are to find these resources. What can you do to strengthen planning resources at the bottom levels?

3. MECHANISMS TO ACCOMMODATE REGIONAL DISPARITIES. Sometimes one or two regions (or districts) have adequate planning resources, and all others do not. This means that decentralized planning can widen cross-regional and cross-district disparities. What are your possibilities to assist the weakest units?

4. MECHANISMS TO SUPPORT NATIONAL POLICIES. Regional and district planning usually concentrates on projects and operations, but leaves out legal and policy considerations that can be addressed only at the national level. What is your approach to make bottom-up projects consistent with top-down policy?

5. MECHANISMS FOR COORDINATION AND NEGOTIATION. Information sharing, "clearing house" functions, cooperation and conflicts resolution are essential components of decentralized planning that call for close coordination between different levels of planning.

Worksheet 34 helps you explore these issues. Decentralized planning is never easy. Its greatest danger is to create false expectations. This occurs when low-level units send their plans to higher levels, which then ignore or disapprove them because of apathy or disagreements (e.g., over budget and authority). Your challenge is to insure that the lower levels are truly empowered.

5.5 Work With Other Agencies

Participation in your planning should extend to government agencies for agriculture, national parks, energy, industry, and other functional and sectoral areas. These agencies are interest groups because the strategies of your forestry agency have consequences for each of them.

When they are your partners, these other agencies can help create a favorable political climate for the planning. But if they are ignored or consulted too late, they have less reason to support proposals from your forestry group.

As noted earlier, trees and forests are "inter-sectoral" resources that cut across divisions of land ownership and government programs. For this reason, your approach to get other agencies to participate is critical. Generally, you have several opportunities to encourage inter-agency participation (Box 30).

Box 30. Opportunities to Encourage A Variety of Government Agencies to Participate in the Manning for Forests

1. PLANNING SCOPE AND DESIGN. The top administrators of key agencies need to participate in the early stages of planning, especially in decisions about its scope and design. If you merely give these agencies reports to review after the planning is underway, their "ownership" of the process is minimal. Moreover, they will not understand the tradeoffs and conflicts unless they participate from the beginning.

2. TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES. If it works well, inter-agency participation helps link strategic planning for forests with initiatives and plans elsewhere in the government. In some cases, inter-agency cooperation provides access to studies and data that otherwise would be difficult to obtain. Importantly, only an inter-agency group can coordinate strategies for river basins and other bio-geographical regions. If your emphasis is ecosystem or land-use planning, you rely on inter-agency cooperation for the "systems approach."

3. PERIODIC REVIEWS. As noted, a good participation plan provides for periodic reviews to evaluate progress and problems. These reviews provide additional opportunities for the forestry agency to call upon the other agencies.

4. INTER-AGENCY COMMISSIONS AND TASK FORCES. In principle, improvement goals for forest use and conservation can be distributed across several agencies. For example, a rural extension agency may have goals to expand its agroforestry services, while a research institute has goals to expand its tree seed collection. Other agencies take on responsibilities for yet other improvement goals, e.g., for wildlife and watersheds. In the end, several agencies share responsibilities in a cross-organizational plan for land use.

Especially because of past fragmentation, inter-agency committees attract considerable attention. More and more forestry officials will find themselves working within these new organizational structures, often in response to government reorganizations for sustainable development.

In these inter-agency committees, the success of strategic planning for forests depends on accountability for results. Accountability, in turn, depends on clear mission statements and clear lines of authority. It also depends on how the new organizations deal with management complexities and inter-agency rivalries. Worksheet 35 helps you discuss a number of key points.

5.6 Work With Interest Groups

Strategic planning provides an excellent opportunity to foster public-private partnerships for forest management. By inviting them into the planning, your agency obtains the perspectives and advice of forest industries, social and environmental NGOs, and other interest groups. But this must be done carefully (Box 31).

Box 31. Guidelines for Working with Interest Groups



1. The invitation to interest groups should be open and transparent. Do not deliberately exclude any of them.

The invitation to participate must be democratic and fair.

2. If participation of community groups and small NGOs will be extensive or new, consider using specialists to support it.

The effort to involve grass-roots groups often requires facilitation skills and time not otherwise available.

3. Invite the participation of key groups early in the planning cycle.

Early participation promotes "ownership." Also, the agency needs early discussions to define issues and design the planning.

4. Ensure that the groups understand the planning time frame, and the limits of the planning team's authority.

Participants need realistic expectations of what can be accomplished.

5. Verify the support base of each group's representatives

Some "representatives" are not backed by the groups they claim to represent.

6. If you anticipate antagonism, deal with these groups separately and early. Make personal contacts in advance of meetings.

Build as much trust as possible, and avoid unnecessary confrontations.

7. Practice approaches for managing hostile meetings (e.g., active listening, procedural rules, mediators, humor, etc.)

The facilitation style is more effective than the authoritarian style.

8. Use negotiation techniques in your meetings with difficult groups (see CH 6).

Negotiation helps disputing groups look for common ground and joint interests.

Source: Adapted from J.L. Creighton, 1981, The Public Involvement Manual, Abt Books, Cambridge, MA, pp. 217-225

Unfortunately, partnerships are not always possible. This is clearest in the case of NGOs that exist because of their opposition to a political party or government policy, e.g., on forests. If they participate as partners with your forestry agency, these NGOs risk compromising their independence.

In a second situation, conflicts among interest groups can be too deep to allow them to sit together at the same table with your agency. This is characteristic of struggles between environmental NGOs and industrial groups. Moreover, many of the forest products enterprises compete with each other, just as different NGOs can be rivals for influence and funding. The conflicts are not only between competing positions, but also among different individuals on any side of them.

For these reasons, some groups perceive advantages in not participating. You may not be able to change this. In other cases, you try to work with difficult groups separately from others, and you apply approaches to minimize potential hostilities. CH 6 will expand on principles and approaches of conflict negotiation.

5.7 Work With Advisory Committees

Advisory committees, working groups, and steering committees can determine the success or failure of your planning. They usually are the main link between your agency and its external environment. In principle, the committees should be able to represent the full range of views on issues and strategies. Additionally, committees may be able to resolve differences on an informal basis rather than through major arguments at the end of the planning. You want advisory committees that are able to contribute in the following ways:

· Help define issues and problems important for the design of the planning;

· Serve as communications links between your forestry agency and other agencies, interest groups, and communities;

· Help design, organize, and co-sponsor the participation plan;

· Assist in informing high levels of government, interest groups, and the communities about the importance of the planning;

· Help select individuals or groups to carry out background analyses, participatory assessments, and other tasks in support of the planning;

· Help evaluate the adequacy of technical, social, and environmental information that goes into the planning;

· Help resolve conflicts among various interests; and

· Assess the quality control of planning reports before they are released more widely.

Obviously, these are important responsibilities. Yet when committees are poorly selected or organized, they cause continuing frustrations for the agency and the committees themselves. You face several potential problems to be avoided or minimized (Box 32).

Box 32. Problems to be Avoided When You Choose Advisory Committees

1. DISTRUST BETWEEN A CITIZENS COMMITTEE AND A TECHNICAL COMMITTEE. This happens when one committee perceives it has less status and influence than the other. To attempt to prevent this, you provide both committees the same materials and access so that one committee does not feel neglected relative to the other. You promote communications between the committees by appointing some persons to sit on both of them. They are the bridge of communications. Moreover, you insure that each committee is fully occupied with genuinely important tasks.

2. UNCLEAR OR CONTESTED ROLE IN THE PLANNING DECISIONS. Your forestry agency is striving to give "ownership" of the planning to citizens and interest groups, but that can be carried too far when advisory committees want control of final decisions. The final decisions rightfully remain with your agency. To avoid misunderstandings, you clearly define the limits of an advisory group's authority in advance of its participation, preferably in writing.

3. ADVISORY COMMITTEES AS POWER ELITES. Because of the information and influence they acquire, advisory committees can turn into power elites. They can become the authorities on particular issues, and they can manipulate decisions to suit personal interests. The longer a group exists, the greater are the possibilities for this to happen. One way to try to prevent this is to limit the existence of advisory committees to the duration of the planning period.

4. MEMBERS OF ADVISORY COMMITTEES ARE NOT REPRESENTATIVE. When individuals participate in advisory committees, they often moderate their views as they begin to appreciate the many tradeoffs in the issues they face. This can be excellent for your agency and the country. But it may anger constituency groups if they do not understand the reasoning behind various compromises. To these interest groups, their "representatives" are out of touch with reality. The best prevention is to make sure that two-way communications keep flowing. This puts the emphasis on frequent briefings, open meetings, and other means to facilitate information flows.

Your main challenge in selecting people to serve on advisory committees is to satisfy everyone that you are including the appropriate mix of interests. Box 33 reviews the advantages and disadvantages of several approaches.

Box 33. Methods of Identifying Members for Your Advisory Committees



1. Your agency directly chooses the committee members in order to try to balance different interests.

This can raise suspicions that your agency selects people that it can control, while excluding its critics.

2. Your agency chooses the interest groups and communities, and the interest groups and communities choose the committee members.

Your agency should be open to inviting a wide variety of interest groups and communities, including those it does not know well.

3. Your agency turns to neutral organizations to choose the committee members.

Your agency asks a civic group, NGO, external aid agency, or other third party to appoint the advisory committees. This requires trust and good communications between your agency and the partner organization so that each understands what the other needs.

4. Your agency announces that it is seeking committee members, and individuals come forward to volunteer (self-selection).

This usually favors privileged interests and individuals. People who are remote, poor, and politically inexperienced are least able to volunteer.

5. Your agency uses advisory committees that have worked in the past, but perhaps for purposes unrelated to forests.

The committee members have experience in working together (an advantage). But they are not necessarily the main interest groups in forests (a disadvantage).

6. Members of advisory committees are elected by popular vote.

This may work for a citizens committee where there is an election infrastructure and a timely opportunity to vote. But ordinarily, forest planning is not raised to this political level.

7. Your agency combines two or more of the preceding methods.

For example, your agency selects some of the members. They, in turn, select others and also invite volunteers. Your selection of the first members is important, since they are responsible for choosing others.

Source: Adapted from J.L. Creighton, 1981, The Public Involvement Manual, Abt Books, Cambridge, MA, pp. 234-236.

Your forestry agency has two other primary responsibilities in working with advisory committees:

· You respond to the requests of advisory committees for information and resources. You ruin your potential goodwill with advisory groups if you do not meet their needs for information, staffing, travel support, and other resources. Agreements about these resources have to be established from the beginning.

· You must assign your agency's top executives to interact with the advisory committees. Advisory committees are seldom content to meet solely with an agency's liaison staff. If the advisory groups cannot meet regularly with your leaders, then your leaders are showing that their priorities are elsewhere. This can be very damaging for an agency which claims a commitment to a participatory process.

5.8 Prepare a Participation Summary

At some stage, the formal planning comes to a temporary end in the planning cycle. The "plan" is released. At that point, it is very important for your agency to acknowledge the participation it received along the way. This is accomplished in a brief report on:

· The type of participation that occurred (drawing from the participation plan to summarize what, when, where, who, why, etc.);

· The issues and viewpoints raised by your planning participants; and

· The ways in which this participation influenced your strategic plan.

The participation report helps protect the agency from potential accusations that its planning process was closed. Secondly, the report informs citizens and interest groups that their participation matters. Finally, the report is a valuable means to communicate on issues of forest use and conservation.

Your participation report should use simple and direct language. It needs to be issued simultaneously with (or only shortly after) the strategic plan. You can express your gratitude for the participation in a number of ways:

· Letters sent by your agency to each participant;

· An official document distributed to participants through the planning team and its advisory committees;

· News articles for newspapers, radio, and television; and

· Speeches at conferences and public gatherings.

You are striving to indicate that your agency is both responsive to and grateful for the participation. To be avoided is a report that defends unpopular elements in your agency's plan, or that neglects the viewpoints of some of the participants. In other words, the participation summary has to be developed with considerable diplomacy by individuals who have excellent skills in communications.

5.9 Hold the Door Open for Continued Participation

In this chapter, we discussed participation in the context of strategic planning. You should be able to learn from participation successes and failures to expand and improve participation in the future. This is particularly critical for agencies facing deep conflicts over forest uses and priorities. After the "plan" is finished, you want to pursue options to continue participatory interactions (Box 34).

Box 34. Ways to Continue the Participation of Citizens and Interest Groups in Your Agency's Activities

1. MONITORING AND EVALUATION. You can engage citizens and interest groups to work as partners with your agency in monitoring and evaluating the improvement goals, such as on a review cycle of every 2-3 years. These details should be an integral part of your participation plan.

2. INFORMATION ACTIVITIES. These include radio and television messages, articles in newspapers, educational programs in schools, art contests, celebrity dinners, and so on. Often, your strongest partners in this are NGOs and international agencies.

3. FIELD TRIPS AND EDUCATIONAL EVENTS. Especially in the case of controversial issues, field trips give people the opportunity to learn from direct experience. They hear and see for themselves. This demonstrates your agency's concern, and may help to moderate extreme positions. These opportunities have to be built into your budget.

4. PERIODIC CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS. If you do not already schedule them, you should consider periodic public meetings to discuss progress and problems in forest use and conservation. This can be a forum to identify new issues, to discuss new options, and to respond to complaints before they grow into conflicts. The meetings should be scheduled well in advance - and at a convenient time of the year - so that citizens and interest groups can make plans to attend. You may need to rotate these by region, or hold both regional and national events.

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