The importance of context for effective public engagement: learning from the governance of waste

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper takes a new look at the importance of context - institutional and political - in effective public engagement processes. It does so through a rare comparative opportunity to examine the effectiveness of processes of public engagement in two UK waste authorities, where the same waste company was involved as both the primary contractor for the delivery of the waste management service (including new energy-from-waste facilities) and, furthermore, the same staff delivered the public engagement. Interrogating these cases affords the opportunity to place flesh on the bones of the sometimes 'abstract' skeleton of context. While engagement processes support effective local governance in an era of partnerships and deliberative democracy, the paper identifies that the methods adopted cannot be played out devoid of detailed understanding and response to local context, including the strength of partnership working between the public and private sector, the degree of political support for engagement, and the extent to which a traditional institutional paternalism still dominates.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1009
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • public engagement, waste, context, deliberative democracy, learning, governance