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SEI brief

Making space: how public participation shapes environmental decision-making

This brief explores the promise and challenge of expanding public participation, both within and outside formal processes.

Jessica Koski, Cleo Verkuijl, Claudia Strambo, Georgia Piggot / Published on 17 January 2019
Download  Download the brief / PDF / 388 KB

Berry, L.H, Koski, J., Verkuijl, C., Strambo, C. and Piggot, G. (2019). Making space: how public participation shapes environmental decision-making. Discussion brief. Stockholm Environment Institute.

Public participation in sustainability and environmental protection is critically important. This is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, which were not only created using unprecedented public outreach but also specifically call for “responsive, inclusive, and participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. Public participation also will be a central topic at the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

This discussion brief provides an introduction for policy-makers, researchers, and others interested in better understanding both the promise and challenges associated with expanding public participation. The authors summarize the core rationales for increasing the public’s role in policy-making processes, and provide a framework for making sense of the diverse array of participation spaces and mechanisms, both within and outside formal state procedures.

This brief also outlines the challenges – drawing particular attention to how social norms can undermine inclusive and equitable engagement – and suggests areas for future research.


Download the brief / PDF / 388 KB

This brief is based on Laura Berry’s master’s thesis, “Protest, participation, and policy: The role of citizens in environmental decision-making.”

SEI authors

Cleo Verkuijl
Cleo Verkuijl



Claudia Strambo
Claudia Strambo

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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