Communication between Science, Policy and Citizens in Public Participation in Urban Forestry--Experiences from the Neighbourwoods Project

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Urban Forestry & Urban Greening







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The demand for sound scientific information and public participation is particularly great in urban forestry. Urban society’s manifold perceptions, preferences and demands for urban forest goods and services need to be considered, indicating the necessity for socially inclusive planning processes. Successful policies can only be formulated by establishing close links with, for example, urban planning and municipal policies. Inherently, this means that close ties between research and policy are required. This article discusses the outcomes of the NeighbourWoods research and development project in which a wide range of tools for public participation were tested in six urban woodland casestudies across Europe. A distinction was made between characteristics of the specific participatory tools and those of the communication process between the facilitators (scientists) of the participation process and the end-users of information (local policy-makers). Public willingness to participate depends on factors such as existing controversy, emotions attached to the forest, and perceived dangers, e.g., in terms of threats to the status quo. Policy makers’ willingness to involve themselves depends on political interests, on prior experience with public participation processes, and on their trust in the facilitators of the public participation process. Findings confirm that a set of tools comprising a step-wise process from informing the public in an attractive way, collecting information on public opinion, towards fully participatory approaches such as direct involvement in decision-making is most likely to ensure socially inclusive planning. Communication with policy-makers requires a high degree of openness, clearly explaining every phase of the process, being open about each other’s expectations, in short, by developing relationships based on mutual trust.


Originally published by Elsevier. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through remote link.