Summary: On both sides of theAtlantic, local jurisdictions haveincreasingly sought to engage the public through collaborativeprocesses in the making andimplementing of controversial poli-cies. For European communities,where the processes of consensus-building and deliberative democracyare relatively new, the Americanexperience provides some lessons.As a CDP fellow, Iolanda Romanospent four months asking Americanmediators and facilitators how theyface the challenges of participa- tory processes, with a particularfocus on how their practices and
outcomes relate to and inuence
decision making processes inpublic policies. She also observeda number of public events thatutilized these practices. In thisbrief, she describes the result of that effort and then puts forth anumber of recommendations forher fellow mediators as well as forpolicymakers seeking to effectivelyengage the public.
Comparative Domestic Policy Program
A ew years ago, in Italy’s Piedmont region,a collaborative process was held to choose alocation or a solid waste incinerator withinthe Province o Torino, a large region o more than ty municipalities.
Ater oneand a hal years o participatory processes,the process itsel was deemed a success, asthe entire 45-member advisory committeeunanimously agreed on the ranking o theproposed sites. A common, shared solutionwas at hand and it was ready or imple-mentation. However, in the meantime, thegovernmental agencies involved changedtheir decision-making process and theirpriorities on where to put the unpopularincinerator, and had instead adopted adierent scenario on where to build it. Thismeant that the ormer vice president o theProvince o Torino, who had pushed orand publicly supported the 18-month longparticipatory process, could no longer guar-antee the implementation o the commit-tee’s solution. Because o this change, hesuered a big drop in credibility which didlasting damaging to his reputation anddissolved his store o political capital.During my our-month long ellowship atthe German Marshall Fund, I ocused my research on how mediators ace the peculiarchallenges o participatory processes in theUnited States, particularly with regard tocontroversial policy issues.
In conductinginterviews with American mediators, Ihighlighted this case as an example, tryingto understand what might have been doneto avoid this ailure.The lessons gleaned rom this research canbe summarized by one o veteran mediatorLarry Susskind’s
adages: “the reasons orailure are always in the beginning o aprocess.” Most o the time, agreementsnegotiated through mediation aren’t imple-mented because not enough care was takenin designing the process, including selec-tion o participants and joint developmento the group’s mandate, to ensure that a
From Confrontation to Cooperation: Citizen Engagementand Consensus Building in Public Policies
Lessons from the U.S. for Italy and Europe
by Iolanda Romano
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 20009T 1 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E firstname.lastname@example.org
April 15, 2010
Iolanda Romano Ph.D. is president and chief executive ofcer of Avventura Urbana, a company based in Torino, Italy that focuses
on public engagement and cross-sector collaborative processes on urban planning, environment, social policies, and related issues.As a fellow of the German Marshall Fund’s (GMF) Comparative Domestic Policy Program, Dr. Romano spent four months exploring
how mediators and facilitators face the challenges of participatory processes in the United States, particularly on controversialissues, with a focus on how these practices and outcomes relate to and inuence decision-making processes in the public policyarena. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GMF.
Luigi Bobbio and Avventura Urbana, “Non Riutarti di Scegliere,” (“Don’t Refuse to Choose”) Participative process to site the wasteincinerator and landll in the province of Torino.
I would like to thank all my interviewees, 50 very smart practitioners in the Washington, DC area, as well as in California, Colorado,and Massachusetts that have given me their precious time to help me understand how they face their challenges. A particular
thanks to the person who has helped me most in shaping this research, who has turned out to be a key factor and a “lightening interlocutor,” Prof. John Forester, from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Larry Susskind is the founder of the Consensus Building Institute and one of the most respected experts on consensus-building andmediation worldwide.