The Dark Side of Community Engagement

The pushback usually heard about public participation tends to focus on how long it takes, and that criticism is often justified. Doing a lot of work under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) over the years, we’ve seen project studies migrate from months-long affairs to years-long marathons with budgets and frustrations growing commensurately. Project complexity is often the cause, but there’s no doubt that the public engagement process frequently suffers from lousy planning and execution. The fact is that powerful people and stakeholders and disingenuous groups have learned how to game the system and shut important and well supported projects down through paralysis by analysis. It just doesn’t have to be this way.

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