Social impact assessment and the public involvement process
Social Impact Assessment andthe Public Involvement Process
PurposeThe purpose is to clarify the distinctionbetween Social Impact Assessment (SIA)and Public Involvement (PI) and make thecase for PI as an integral part of SIA. PI isseen as a process in and of itself but onethat also provides the SIA practitioner ameans to measure and obtain informationabout key social impact assessmentvariables.
• US federal legislation requiring public involvement first appeared in the early 60s as a component of ‘war on poverty’ directives. By the late 60’s and early 70’s the congress had attached public involvement requirements to every significant piece of environmental legislation. It requires scoping ( much of which is public involvement) as a key step in the preparation of environmental and social impact assessment.
Scoping• “There shall be an early and open process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed and for identifying the significant issues related to the proposed action. Significant issues are to be identified and insignificant issues are to be eliminated from the detailed study, through consultation with all interested parties.”
Distinction b/w SIA and PI Based on the writings of several SIA practitioners (Wolf, 1974;Bowles, 1981;Burdge, 2004b; Wildman and Baker, 1985; and Dietz, 1987), we have identified five features characteristics of the SIA process.• SIA is a systematic effort to identify, analyze, and evaluate social impacts of a proposed project or policy change on the individual, social groups within a community, or the entire community- in advance of the decision making process-in order that the information derived from the SIA can be used in the decision process.
Continue…• SIA is a mean for developing alternatives to the proposed course of action and determining the full range of benefits and consequences for each alternatives.• SIA increases knowledge on the part of the project proponent and the affected community.• SIA raises consciousness and the level of understanding of the community and puts the residents in a better position to understand the broader implication of the proposed action.
Continue…• SIA includes within it a process to mitigate or alleviate possible consequences if the proposed action is accepted by the affected community.
The Public Involvement Process• Public involvement (public participation) refers to the systematic provision for affected publics to be informed about and participate in the planning/ decision processes. The key component is an effective, open exchange among proponents, agencies, organizations, and all interested and affected publics. The PI process has the potential to benefit both the project proponent and the community.
Continue..• PI functions as a means of educating the impacted community as to the potential benefits and consequences of a proposed action, alternative courses of action and their respective impacts.• PI serves as a means for the community or larger society to provide input to a proposed action before a final decision is reached. In effect, the public becomes part of the planning and decision making process.
Continue..• PI may function as a catalyst behind community self-evaluation and analysis leading to assessments and situations with regard to how communities cope with change.• PI function as an on-going-data-gathering tool for social impact variables. The process may supply factual information regarding population change, community/institutional arrangements, political and social resources, community and family changes and community resources.
Continue….• PI may be a way of proposing alternatives to be suggested plan or course of action. The key assumption being that locals knows their community better than outsiders.
Identification: Describe Proposed Action• The first step is to develop a public involvement program as part of problem identification. At this stage the proposed action and possible alternatives will be developed. Included will be a plan to involve the interested and affected publics.
Community Profile• In this stage the assessor determines which social impact variables are relevant to the SIA, collects information and compiles a social profile. We identify and define 28 SIA variables, provide detailed reasons why each is important, and suggest how they might be measured and interpreted within the context of the planning process.
Scoping• In this stage the social impact assessors identifies the potentially impacted public and their concerns in an attempt to determine if a full scale social impact assessment is needed. A community needs assessment may be part of that determination.