Especially in the initial phases where a lot of planning and a lot of talking with different people is required to initiate the project, it is important to let the responsible authorities know about the individual steps and to keep them informed about updates or changes of the plans, but also about the exploration. In addition, it should be taken care of planning permits in this phase. Based on the respective legal framework that count for the area where the project is supposed to be sited, the public and stakeholders should be informed, and they should have the possibility to express their opinion and to get into discussion if this desire exists. That means also at this stage of the project it is important to provide information transparently, promptly and regularly.
It is advisable to carry out a structured and planned public participation in order to have a concept of when to communicate what to which interest groups and how to communicate it. The citizens should be informed of the exact plans, which phases are imminent and what exactly will be done in which phases. In case information events are chosen as a measure, it can be considered whether experts such as representatives of the authorities or experts from science are available to answer questions.
If the project planning, additional to the intellectual participation of the public, contains thoughts to offer financial participation, this phase offers the chance to introduce the possibilities for it in this project.
In addition, when communicating with the public, there should also be emphasized that all operations related to the project are properly carried out and must first be checked and approved by the responsible authorities and that the developer is responsible and liable in case of malfunctions or other incidents. This helps creating the certainty that the mentioned risks are minimized by a respectable amount of safety precautions by authorities that are independent from the project. Furthermore, the fact that the project managers have a personal interest in carefully planning and carrying out all processes due to their liability is reassuring.
Personal closeness is crucial for acceptance and creating trust. What has therefore proven to be beneficial for many renewable energy projects was that the population had a direct and reliable contact person to whom they could turn to with all their questions and concerns. This chosen person should be able to provide answers to the various questions about different aspects of the project. A permanent presence of the contact person, for example through a local office, is ideal. This makes contacting easier and guarantees the feeling that there is always the option to turn towards the responsible with burning, but also with less burning questions. In addition, this local presence confirms the feeling of being taken seriously and being involved instead of being left out of the project. Next to a local office, there is also the possibility to offer digital presence. An internet platform like the official website for the project could offer an area where questions can be stated and collectively answered by the contact person via FAQ-videos on the website or on social media. A measure like that primarily addresses the younger target audience, but it surely is a good addition to signalize presence. It is also advisable for the representative or a specially appointed press representative to speak to journalists, but also directly to citizens about the progress of the project in regular intervals. This also creates a feeling of personal closeness and trust on another level.
In order to ensure a regular exchange with relevant sector agencies, nature conservation associations or environmental protection associations, it is advisable to set up a project advisory board that meets at regular intervals to exchange information on the latest developments.
In general – and this applies not only to this phase, but to all phases of the project implementation – there should always be a reflection loop. Measures that have worked well up to the present time of rechecking, can be continued, measures that need to be improved should be revised for the following phases. But after all, since a municipality or a region is a living system, the first context analysis that is conducted is only a snapshot. Things like the social system or the political framework can change during the process of project implementation since it can take up to several years. Thus, it is also important to consider whether the actor constellation of the initial phase is still the same, how the dynamics are at the current moment, how the media is currently reporting and so on to then decide which participation measures fit best for the following phase.
Related Core Services