Introducing the International Journal of Public Participation

Katherine Beavis

Welcome to the International Journal of Public Participation

The ‘IJP2’ is an on-line, multi-disciplinary forum for the exchange of information among researchers, practitioners, decision-makers, and citizens about public participation and its impact around the world.  It has been created with the specific intention of bridging the arenas of research and practise within the field of public participation.

The International Association for Public Participation was founded in 1990.[1] A year later, the IAP2 began publishing Interact, a periodical designed to serve the needs of practitioners by addressing ‘topics of strong interest to those in the field of public participation’.  When Interact put out its final issue in the spring of 2003, it was, in the words of its volunteer editor, Todd Peterson, a forum for exploring those topics in a deeper, more thoughtful way than was possible in other venues where people gathered to discuss public participation.

Interact met the needs of the IAP2 membership for many years, but by 2003 the IAP2 as an organisation had changed in significant ways.  The membership of IAP2 had expanded beyond the group of visionary North American practitioners who founded the organisation to include not only practitioners but also researchers, community organisers, public administrators, and others who were discovering the benefits of bringing citizens more fully and actively into decision-making processes.  Moreover, the ‘field’ itself had broadened, moving from a North American focus on land-use planning and environmental and natural resource management to an international concern with the public’s role in, among other things, community economic development, dispute resolution, democratic reform, and dialogue and deliberation. 

In 2004, a number of IAP2 members began looking for ways to connect the practise of public participation with the growing body of work being produced by researchers and other scholars who were studying its various facets from a more academic standpoint.  These IAP2 members saw value in alerting practitioners to advances in theory and in rendering academic discussion accessible to them.  After consultations with the Association’s membership, and after a review of IAP2 publications, this group arrived gradually at a vision of a new publication that would serve as a medium through which academics and practitioners would exchange information and ideas about public participation.  The result is the journal now making its debut as The International Journal of Public Participation

Beatrice Briggs, IAP2’s immediate Past President (2006), sees the new journal as ‘part of IAP2’s ongoing evolution as the leading international organisation dedicated to public participation.  To serve our members and others who look to us for information, inspiration, and guidance’, she says, ‘we need to be a source of credible, timely research that moves the practise forward’.  Hence the IJP2’s two-fold purpose of delivering traditional, peer-reviewed research and providing a ‘digest’ of practical knowledge gleaned from those whose learning has grown through observation and reflection on their experiences, rather than through use of scientific research methods.

The express purpose of the IJP2 is ‘…to meet the needs of IAP2 members and others having an interest in improving the theory and practise of public participation’, which the IAP2 defines as ‘citizen participation in decision-making processes that affect the public in whole or in part’.[2] Specifically, the IJP2 is intended to advance the IAP2’s mission [3] in three ways:

  • by serving as a vehicle for disseminating information about new developments in the field of public participation; 
  • by improving communication and mutual understanding between academics and practitioners;  and
  • by establishing a forum through which the IAP2 and its members can help shape the research agenda for improving the theory and practise of public participation.

The IJP2 will publish

  • reports, analyses, and proposals that connect public participation with decision-making regarding matters of policy, planning, or development  (examples of policy, planning, or development where public participation may occur include:  environmental impact assessment; public health policy; urban, transportation, and energy planning; community economic development; sustainability; risk management; and democratic reform.
  • discussions of particular issues, events, cases, processes, or tools relevant to the effective practise of public participation; 
  • commentary on the deeper questions and assumptions underpinning current theoretical and practical approaches to public participation; 
  • Interviews, book reviews, and other forms of communication concerning matters of importance for the theory or practise of public participation;  and
  • material that places  public participation in the context of the various challenges currently facing societies and their governments around the world;  addresses common problems or questions in the practise of public participation;  and offers a comparative or international perspective on the theory and practise of public participation.

We hope the IJP2 will live up to the vision we have for it.  You can help by offering your comments and suggestions.  Let us know what we do well, and tell us how we can improve.  Above all, talk to each other—that’s what the IJP2 is here for:  to provide opportunities for sustained, high-quality discussion of public participation.

Katherine Beavis is co-chair of the IJP2 Editorial Board and a former member of the IAP2 Board of Directors.

[1] Originally, the IAP2 was the IAP3:  the International Association for Public Participation Practitioners.

[2] IJP2 Editorial Policy, p. 1.

[3] See the IAP2 Mission Statement at