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Enable Participation

Enable Participation

Be thoughtful when designing your approach to bringing people together and asking for their input.

Remember that your partners may come from a diverse range of sectors and backgrounds, with differing ability to participate and different preferences for how they may want to be engaged. Be ready to listen to what your partners are saying early in the project design process, and get creative when you need to.

  Tip: Consider and address potential barriers to participation for team members and intended users

In addition to soliciting input on specific questions that will inform project plans, make it clear to your team and intended users early on that you are open to other types of feedback about the project, so that you can identify potential issues, barriers to participation, or new opportunities. Project participants may suggest other ways of engaging and collaborating that could make the project go more smoothly for everyone.

Work with your project team members who have collaboration expertise and relationships with users to design meetings and interactions that will be welcoming, comfortable, meaningful, and accessible to participants. If you find a key individual or group seems hesitant to participate to the extent that you had hoped, ask your team and other advisors for help, and consider setting up personal conversations with those individuals to ensure that project activities feel welcoming and inclusive and manageable.


“...Just having the information available, and having multiple people to contact [made a difference]...”

Hear more from a county planning director »

Here are a few things to consider when making your meetings and events welcoming:

  • Keep participant needs, preferences, and styles in mind when choosing a meeting location. Consider public transportation, parking (location and cost), physical ability, and timing, as well as other commitments participants have after their workday or their need for childcare. If you don’t know their needs, ask them so you can avoid overlooking something that makes a difference for their participation. You may not be able to accommodate everything but even a few small steps or adjustments could be valuable to your partners.
  • Be sure to provide enough background information in advance to help participants feel prepared.
  • Use clear, simple language to explain your science and management issues.
  • Be explicit about how you want people to participate. Jointly establish ground rules.
  • Build in time to properly honor land, customs, and culture in meeting planning, including appropriate acknowledgment of original land ownership.



“...everybody was given the opportunity to really voice their concerns, voice their priorities...”

Hear more from a state agency environmental scientist »

  • Consider allocating funds to incorporate a field visit, traditional food, or other customs — to break the ice, build relationships, and make the project topic more tangible.
  • In advance, invite participants to bring a specific piece of information to the meeting that connects to the project and their own work, so that everyone is contributing to the discussion.
  • Consider and clearly indicate the level of feedback that you would like from participants during and after each meeting. This includes thinking about and setting bounds on what can and cannot be acted upon within the scope of the project.
  • Remember that your users and other participants are incredibly busy with many other responsibilities. Try to accommodate different ways and frequencies of participating. And always bring patience and grace to your planning conversations and meetings.