Traditionally, policies, plans, projects and programmes (PPPPs) have relied on top-down or technocratic approaches in their formation, based on expert scientific knowledge at the expense of other local knowledge. The challenge is to develop tools that allow joint consideration of local knowledge alongside scientific knowledge. Involving wider publics and organisations in decision-making processes can be an important factor in ensuring that a PPPP is successful, building trust, understanding and endorsement amongst the wider community.
There are many tools available for public engagement but they are often applied superficially as bolt-ons rather than embedded in policy and decision-making processes. Set within an understanding of a particular PPPP, it is crucial that affected publics are able to shape meaningfully the process and outcome through effective engagement opportunities.