1We use the term agency generically throughout our conclusions and recommendations. An environmental public participation process may be convened by a federal, state, or local government agency, by a group of agencies, by a business or nonprofit nongovernmental organization, or even by a previously unorganized group of affected individuals. We sometimes use the term agency to refer broadly to any entity or group of entities that may convene a public participation process, provide the resources for it to proceed, or take action based on its results.


2Our reading of the literature indicates that this conclusion also applies outside the United States. However, to keep our task manageable, we have focused our analysis on the literature grounded in U.S. experience to ensure that our results are relevant to the agencies that sponsored the study.


3We use the term culture broadly to refer to characteristics of belief, thought, or practice that are shared within a social group, whether that group is defined by ethnicity, race, gender, religion, occupation, scientific discipline, or some other characteristic. The cultural differences that are important to public participation are those that affect the ways people understand the policy issues or the information offered to aid in assessment or decision making. The most important cultural factors are likely to vary with the issue at hand.

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