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A theory of participation: What makes stakeholder and public engagement in environmental management work?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark Reed, Steven Vella, Professor Lynn FrewerORCiD, Rosmarie Neumann, Dr Elizabeth Oughton



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2017 Society for Ecological Restoration. This article differentiates between descriptive and explanatory factors to develop a typology and a theory of stakeholder and public engagement. The typology describes different types of public and stakeholder engagement, and the theory comprises four factors that explain much of the variation in outcomes (for the natural environment and/or for participants) between different types of engagement. First, we use a narrative literature search to develop a new typology of stakeholder and public engagement based on agency (who initiates and leads engagement) and mode of engagement (from communication to coproduction). We then propose a theory to explain the variation in outcomes from different types of engagement: (1) a number of socioeconomic, cultural, and institutional contextual factors influence the outcomes of engagement; (2) there are a number of process design factors that can increase the likelihood that engagement leads to desired outcomes, across a wide range of sociocultural, political, economic, and biophysical contexts; (3) the effectiveness of engagement is significantly influenced by power dynamics, the values of participants, and their epistemologies, that is, the way they construct knowledge and which types of knowledge they consider valid; and (4) engagement processes work differently and can lead to different outcomes when they operate over different spatial and temporal scales. We use the theoretical framework to provide practical guidance for those designing engagement processes, arguing that a theoretically informed approach to stakeholder and public engagement has the potential to markedly improve the outcomes of environmental decision-making processes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Reed MS, Vella S, Challies E, de Vente J, Frewer L, Hohenwallner-Ries D, Huber T, Neumann RK, Oughton EA, Sidoli del Ceno J, van Delden H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Restoration Ecology

Year: 2018

Volume: 26

Issue: S1

Pages: S7-S17

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Online publication date: 22/08/2017

Acceptance date: 05/04/2017

Date deposited: 30/01/2018

ISSN (print): 1061-2971

ISSN (electronic): 1526-100X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/rec.12541

Notes: Funded by the SOILCARE project, which has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 677407. Special Issue: Involving society in restoration and conservation


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