Theory and Practice of Public Participation in Planning

by Gene E. Willeke, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof.; Envir. Resour. Ctr., Georgia Inst. of Technol., Atlanta, GA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Irrigation and Drainage Division, 1974, Vol. 100, Issue 1, Pg. 75-86

Document Type: Journal Paper


Communications, sociology and social psychology, and political science provide the principal theoretical base for public participation programs. Planners more readily accept improved communications than the other disciplines as a starting point for public participation program development. Techniques used to involve the public include workshops, forums, familiarization tours, brochures, opinion surveys, pro and con sheets, participation scorecards, briefings, and modified public hearings. In general, the successes have been impressive and rather easy to obtain. Failures have not necessarily been permanent and do not necessarily cast doubt on the theoretical base. Primary contributions of communications theory are two-way communication, multistep flow, and multiple entry into the system. Contributions of sociology and social psychology are the notion that planning is a social process, the concept of perception, and the concepts of trust, legitimacy, and rapport. Political science contributes the categorization of political systems into democratic and elitist structures and orderliness and conformance with law and principle.

Subject Headings: Social factors | Public participation | Professional development | Human factors | Communication systems | Surveys (non-geomatic) | Sheets | Failure analysis

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