From the very first project ideas, it is important to conduct a thorough preliminary work in order to ensure that citizens are involved optimally in all phases of the project.
First and foremost, it should be clarified, who should be involved in the development of the project, and how the various groups are reached in the best way.
It is also important to clarify the objective of involving citizens and stakeholders before they are invited into the process.
Finally, it is a good idea to define success criteria for the involvement: the number of citizens who attend meetings, the number of proposals and ideas, etc. As it should be apparent, good and active citizen participation can contribute to a successful project implementation.
Initially it is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation and baseline study within the project area. Here it is also important to investigate and collect other data than just the physical conditions.
For example, information about how people meet, what types of meetings and events are taking place in the local area and how are they convened and organized?
In addition, it is important to know how decisions are taken and which persons are central in mobilizing the community?
Finally, the mapping is important in relation to clarifying the target groups; who will benefit from the project and which stakeholders should be involved.
In order to conduct such a survey, it is necessary to possess a great deal of local knowledge. Therefore, it is important to seek out and engage people who have a thorough knowledge about the local people and the area. Often these people are found outside of the conventional power structures of the society.
These key people often process knowledge that can’t be found elsewhere, but is essential in order to be able to adapt the upcoming project to local conditions.
What works on Samsø, doesn’t necessarily work in Trollhattan.
Initially, it is important for the success and impact of the project to determine who should be involved in the development of the project and how to reach each group.
-- Start by identifying all project stakeholders
- Who will be affected by the project directly and indirectly?
In order to ensure popular support of an energy or infrastructure project, it is important that the local authority is involved in the entire process.
Traditionally, the local planning authority is required to follow the laws and executive orders minimum requirements for public participation. Although these requirements ensures a level of democratic control, are processes that are designed for these minimum criteria, far from conducive to a genuine involvement, where many citizens feel greeted and given a say in the planning.
Therefore, it is necessary that the local authority is trying out new ways of securing popular support.
Municipalities must participate in the development and testing of new ways to involve local citizens and politicians and end up with a series of recommendations for a "best practice" for authority planning ensuring broad popular support.
Another element is the involvement of local actors - here local politicians. In the Nordic planning culture becomes local politicians often only involved in the planning, when a project is 95% formulated.
It is important to clearly define the objective for involving citizens and stakeholders before they are invited into the process.
It is also a good idea to set up clear criteria for the success of the inclusion; the number of citizens who attend meetings, the number of proposals and ideas, etc.
Some of the key issues that have to be clarified from the beginning are: who should be involved in the process and which groups can contribute to the success of the project? In this context it is important to think broadly and consider inviting different local organizations, investors, companies, etc.
In addition, the strategy should take into account; when and how politicians and officials should be involved?
It is important that the local people understand what is going to happen and to develop clear and understandable goals.
At the same time, it is important to demonstrate and achieve results, setting up realistic and achievable milestones within a foreseeable future
In order to ensure broad public support, it is important to find out what can “sell the project” to the local population - and at the same time to consider what the project can offer the individual stakeholders.
Financial gain is generally a powerful argument to convince people about the quality of the activities. Environmental and social argument can also be important arguments in order to create public acceptance and interest.
An active participation in the project could among other things give the citizens an opportunity to influence the design of the project and perhaps even lead to volunteer employments.
Another argument that often has an impact on the political level is the argument that active involvement can help to strengthen the legitimacy within the community.