Success criteria

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List of success criteria

Public participation literature often presents three rationales for public participation:

  • Democratic rationale, i.e. the idea that the public as a citizenry has a right to be involved in decision-making that will affect them
  • Instrumental rationale, i.e. participation will contribute to an efficient and effective policy process
  • Social learning rationale, i.e. participation will help participants to reflect on their views, learn from others and build trust and working relationships

Following Susskind and Cruickshank (1987) a good participation process can be defined as one which is fair, wise and efficient and leads to stable solutions. Accordingly, following criteria can be set for a good participation process (Susskind and Cruickshank 1987, Innes 2004):


  • The process is open to public scrutiny
  • All people and groups who want to participate in the process are given a change to do so
  • Information (including information concerning alternatives and their consequences) is accessible and fully shared among participants
  • All participants have an equal opportunity to be heard and express their views
  • Participants are accountable for their constituencies they represent (i.e. they represent the views of their background organizations and not just their own views)
  • The offer to participate comes at a timely juncture (that is, before the central decisions were made)
  • The process allows for constructive dialogue


  • The process does not consume disproportionate amount of time and resources
  • Participation will speed up planning process and reduce complaints and protests


  • The process makes use of all relevant information, including local knowledge
  • The process accounts for competing knowledge claims and interpretation of facts
  • The process generates innovative solutions
  • The process increases awareness and acceptance of other worldviews


  • The process helps settling conflicts
  • The process produces solutions which can be implemented
  • The process builds more trust between the actors

Empirical research has shown, however, that participants have different hopes and aspirations for participation; some expect that participatory processes will foster implementation and compliance with decisions while others hope that they will gain more influence on decision-making (Webler et al 2001, Kangas et al 2010) . Furthermore, some participation goals can be conflicting, e.g. a constructive dialogue might be difficult to arrange in a process which include a very wide range of stakeholders.

Various (forest and generic) DSS have typically been used in participatory planning processes. From participatory planning point of view, certain properties of DSS have the potential for enhancing the success (Menzel et al. 2012).


Innes, J. 2004. Consensus Building: Clarification for the Critics, Planning Theory 3(1), 5–20.

Kangas, A., Saarinen, N., Saarikoski, H., Leskinen, L.A., Hujala, T. & Tikkanen, J.. 2010. Stakeholder perspectives about proper participation for Regional Forest Programmes in Finland. Forest Policy and Economics 12:213-222.

Menzel, S., Nordström, E-M., Buchecker, M., Marques, A., Saarikoski, H., & Kangas A. 2012. Decision support systems in forest management – requirements from a participatory planning perspective. European Journal of Forest research 131:1367-1379.

Susskind, L. & Cruikshank, J. 1987. Breaking the Impasse. Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public Disputes. Basic Books.

Webler, T., Tuler, S. & Krueger, R. 2001. What is good participation process? Five perspectives from the public. Environmental Management 27(3), 435-450.