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What is Public Consultation?

D. Nelson
D. Nelson

Public consultation is a process used by some governments and organizations in which the general public is involved in the development and implementation of policies and plans. Organizations use this process in order to achieve goals such as improved efficiency of certain plans and policies and increased levels of access and transparency. Normally, a public consultation is made up of three separate steps: the notification of a consultation, the dialogue between the public and organization officials, and the actual participation of the public in the drafting or implementation of a plan or policy.

Before any public consultation can occur, a notification must be sent out. This is a way to alert relevant populations and groups that they are invited to join in a certain discussion. When whole populations, such as residents of a city or nation, are invited to take part in the consultation, a number of far reaching methods may be used, such a radio and television broadcasts and advertisements, mass mailings, and Internet visibility. When certain interest groups, such as charities, political organizations, and residents of a neighborhood, are invited, fliers and postings in relative locations may be utilized.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The dialogue in which members of the public exchange ideas with officials is also referred to as the consultation. This stage of the process may occur via phone calls or emails. In other instances, this stage of public consultation may occur in meetings. Representatives of the public express ideas and concerns, and officials from the government or organization consider these notions and may reveal restrictions regarding law and financial budget.

The stage of consultation or dialogue may often blend or overlap with the next stage of participation. In this part of the public consultation process, certain individuals and interest groups may work closely with officials in order to draft and implement policies, legislature, and plans. This allows the public representatives to oversee and contribute to the decisions performed by the officials. Likewise, officials are able to consult public representatives for needs and considerations regarding the lifestyle and health of the affected public.

Public consultation is an often used process in the Commonwealth countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. Commonwealth is a term normally used to describe governments that were at one time part of the British Empire. Other forms of government, such as democracies, may have processes that are similar to public consultation, but which may have different names.

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