An evaluation of three democratic, community-based approaches to citizen participation: Surveys, conversations with community groups, and community dinners

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In recent years, the thinking of practitioners and scholars from the fields of community development and public involvement has converged in supporting local, community-based approaches for citizen participation in making decisions about the management of public lands. Community-based approaches are supported because citizens have local knowledge, understand local conditions, can practice direct democracy, and can help develop solutions to problems of integrated and sustainable forest management. However, there is little information available to evaluate the effectiveness of community-based strategies. This study evaluates how well three participatory techniques-a mail survey, focused conversations with existing community groups, and community dinners-meet three key community-oriented oriented criteria: representativeness, working toward identification of community-wide wide common good, and incorporation of values and beliefs into the discussion. The evaluation conducted in this study indicates that the techniques produce positive results for two of these criteria, but may not be representative of the communities as a whole.

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Society and Natural Resources