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  • Writer's pictureL. Darryl Armstrong

If you don’t know where you are going…

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Lewis Carroll

As an advocate for public involvement and participation for the past 40-years, long before the concept became a “popular” chant for activist, I am still amazed to find some agencies subvert the concept by imposing their “legal requirements” on what should be a “common sense” approach to public engagement. I am always perplexed at what government agencies do to create conflict and concern among stakeholders and then they wonder what went wrong.

Without mentioning any one agency, I am sure you can think of plenty at the local, state and federal levels, many have one thing in common – they fear the public and any involvement they may want. They choose to hide behind their “legal requirements” rather than to “engage in dialogue and involve the public in a collaborative process.” I have come to believe all too often this happens because the agencies think the public wants “shared decision-making” when in essence they want “”shared assessment” of the problem so a better solution or set or solutions can be developed to solve a problem.


Too often it seems easier for the agencies to use the old standby – the D.A.D. approach – we will decide without your input, we will announce it in as technical terms as possible to obfuscate your understanding, and we will defend it – just sue us if you don’t like it.

An agency may “win” in the court of law eventually BUT they always end up losing in the court of public opinion.

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