Jump to main content.

Definitions of the Most Commonly used
Public Stakeholder Involvement Terms

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

picture of hands
The term "the public" is used in the Policy in the broadest sense, meaning the general population of the United States. Many segments of "the public" may have a particular interest in or may be affected by, Agency programs and decisions.

In addition to private individuals, "the public" includes, but is not limited to:

Affected parties
"Affected parties" are stakeholders who are or may be impacted by EPA decisions.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
"Alternative (means of) Dispute Resolution" is "any procedure that is used to resolve issues in controversy, including but not limited to conciliation, facilitation, mediation, fact finding, minitrials, arbitration, use of ombuds or any combination thereof." 5 U.S.C. 571(3) These ADR techniques involve a neutral third party, a person who assists others in designing and conducting a process for reaching agreement, if possible.

The neutral third party has no stake in the substantive outcome of the process. Depending on the circumstances of a particular dispute, neutral third parties may be Agency employees or may from outside EPA. Typically, all aspects of ADR are voluntary, including the decision to participate, the type of process used, and the content of any final agreement.

Consensus Building
"Consensus Building" is a process in which people agree to work together to resolve common problems in a relatively informal, cooperative manner. It is a technique that can be used to bring together representatives from different stakeholder groups early in a decision-making process. A neutral third party helps the people design and implement their own strategy for developing group solutions to the problems.

"Convening" (also called conflict assessment) involves the use of a neutral third party to help assess the causes of the conflict, to identify the persons or entities that would be affected by the outcome of the conflict, and to help these parties consider the best way (for example, mediation, consensus-building or a lawsuit) for them to deal with the conflict. The convener may also help get the parties ready for participation in a dispute resolution process by providing education to the parties on what the selected process will be like.

"Facilitation" is a process used to help a group of people or parties have constructive discussions about complex, or potentially controversial issues. The facilitator provides assistance by helping the parties set ground rules for these discussions, promoting effective communication, eliciting creative options, and keeping the group focused and on track. Facilitation can be used even where parties have not yet agreed to attempt to resolve a conflict.

Fair treatment
"Fair treatment" as defined on EPA's Environmental Justice Website , means that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic or a socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences from industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.

Meaningful involvement
"Meaningful involvement" means that:

"Mediation" is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) helps disputants reach a mutually satisfying settlement of their differences. Mediation is voluntary, informal and confidential. The mediator helps the disputants to communicate clearly, to listen carefully and to consider creative ways to reach resolution. The mediator makes no judgments about the people or the conflict, and issues no decision. Any agreement that is reached must satisfy all the disputants.

"Stakeholders" are individuals or representatives from organizations or interest groups that have a strong interest in the Agency's work and policies.

Timely information
"Timely information" means distributing information sufficiently far in advance so that the interested public has enough time to review relevant material, decide whether to become involved, and make plans for that involvement. Timely applies to the availability of background information on particular issues, as well as notice of public meetings, public comment periods or other critical involvement activities.

"Tribe" means an Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 479a.


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.