Revue Internationale de Psychosociologie et de Gestion des Comportements Organisationnels (RIPCO)
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Volume XXVII • Issue 69 • 2021 (Already published)
Guest editor(s): Alice, Friser ; Stéphanie, Yates
Social acceptability: a matter of participatory democracy?
Faced with the growing local, national and sometimes international opposition to both private and public projects and decisions, it is difficult to reduce social acceptability to the judicious management of a project or the implementation of a policy at the time of its promotion or launch. Rather, social acceptability reflects people's judgment of these projects and policies, following a dynamic process of social construction in which alternatives to a given situation are formulated. To build social acceptability, entrepreneurs and public decision-makers must therefore take note of the way in which progress is envisaged by societal actors and can no longer be limited to mobilising the traditional process of representative democracy. In this sense, many hope to channel this dynamic through societal dialogue forums. But these participatory bodies of intermediate democracy can no longer play the peace-building role they are attributed, because they remain places of debate where world visions clash, which will ultimately have to be the subject of arbitration. The contributions in this special issue shed new light on the potential and challenges of these participatory bodies to build compromises that can influence the trajectories of social acceptability.
Issue content
Title :  Social acceptability, a question of participatory democracy?
Author(s) :  Alice, Friser ; Stéphanie, Yates
Abstract :  The construction of social acceptability, conceived as the collective judgement of the population concerning a given policy or project, is sometimes based on the participation of the social actors concerned in the discussions that inform public decision making. Intermediary democratic bodies where various participatory mechanisms are deployed thus play a key role in the emergence of acceptability. However, the question of the effects of participatory processes on the dynamics of social acceptability remains little studied today, whether by studies on social acceptability or those on public participation. Based on projects that raise environmental concerns, this special issue draws on the intersection of these two theoretical fields to analyze the impact of participatory democracy mechanisms on decision-making and the construction of social accessibility. The contributions thus make it possible to reflect on how intermediary democracy bodies contribute or not to social acceptability. More specifically, they explore the institutionalization of the concept as a new standard of public management. They also address the effects of the participatory processes deployed in these forums on a given project''s acceptability and the impact on the final decisions. In sum, this issue allows us to see to what extent participatory mechanisms offer the conditions for a constructive debate that will better channel the societal conflicts that some industrial projects or public policies generate, intending to construct compromises that are projected into a future vision of development.
Keywords:  social acceptability, participatory democracy, public participation, environmental controversies, public decision-making
Pages :  5 - 16
Type :  Editorial
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Title :  Social acceptability in Québec: a new normative tool for public action
Author(s) :  Louis, SIMARD
Abstract :  At the heart of debates and controversies concerning environmental public policy and major infrastructure and development projects, social acceptability (SA) has become institutionalized in Quebec over the years, directly related to the concepts of public participation and sustainable development. As an increasingly necessary condition for public action, AS can be understood as a new normative instrument in order to articulate participatory democracy and representative democracy with strong implications in terms of both procedural and distributive justice. In this article, we want to answer four questions in order to better understand and analyze SA for public action: how to define SA and approach it theoretically? It is proposed to conceptualize the concept in the manner of work on the public action instruments of Lascoumes and Le Galès (2004) and Halpern et al. (2014); 2) What trajectory has it experienced over time? We respond to this through an analysis of the corpus of reports from the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE); 3) What do the actors say? We report on the similarities and differences in the testimony of public participation professionals (PPPs) and; 4) What is the scope of this new standard on projects and decisions? Initial findings are proposed on the basis of three important and recent case studies. These four responses allow, from different angles, to shed new light from Quebec''s experience with AS.
Keywords:  social acceptability, public policy tools, standard, major projects, public participation, Quebec
Pages :  17 - 44
Type :  Research paper
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Title :  The social acceptability hardship, or the disputed composition of the collective
Author(s) :  Rémi, Barbier
Abstract :  Sometimes contested, poorly theorized, the notion of social acceptability nevertheless tends to impose itself. Faced with this observation, this article bets that it may be relevant to keep it and use it as a password to communicate with the large community of its users. However, this concession is coupled with an ambition to consolidate the notion in theory. To do this, the article is based on the analysis of spatialized conflicts around environmental equipments. It proceeds from the analytical framework of B. Latour on the composition of the "collective" through a succession of trials. It thus introduces the notion of the trial of acceptability as a civic regulation of a technical project, complementing the State regulation. Finally, it completes the use of this notion with an operational perspective, by suggesting a few ideas for a possible third party to pilot this trial.
Keywords:  conflict, controversy, civic regulation, collective, social acceptability
Pages :  45 - 61
Type :  Research paper
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Title :  The social reception of coastal risk management: an insight through the prism of participatory simulation
Author(s) :  Marion, Amalric ; Nicolas, Becu
Abstract :  While offering alternative methods of coastal risk management, the French public authorities are facing the reluctance of local authorities. The social acceptance of risk management is particularly relevant as the perspective of the effects of climate change makes the need to define optimised and long-term strategies more and more important. Based on a participatory simulation experiment, we show how the social reception process of a risk management policy is constituted, by presenting a case study in Oléron, during which workshop''s attendees experiment with alternative management modes of flooding risk. The article shows that the implementation of a participatory process makes real the possibility of qualifying the social reception of a public risk management policy, in terms of risk knowledge, coastal risk management scales and sensitivity to the effects of climate change. The mechanism proves to be a means for the workshop participants to seize the debate arenas that the workshops constitute: the discussion shows that it is a form of "overflow" of the scientific mechanism, in favour of the public policy appropriation.
Keywords:  hazard, social perception, participatory simulation, climate change, coastline
Pages :  63 - 89
Type :  Research paper
URL Cairn:
Title :  Blue growth facing citizen protests: analysing the participative democracy process from four case studies in Brittany (France)
Author(s) :  Charlène, KERMAGORET ; Katia, FRANGOUDES
Abstract :  Blue growth is a European strategy to develop the economy through the unexploited potential of oceans, seas and coastal areas. The lens of blue growth in the political agenda leads to the development of several economic sectors as marine renewable energy and aquaculture. In France, the development of these two sectors suffers from the resistance of citizens’ movements within the communities in which such projects are planned. These citizens’ movements question the legitimacy of State to define the general interest and seek to assert territorial interests. Citizens involvement during the implementation phase of the projects, called participatory democracy, is nowadays highly encouraged in order to prevent conflicts of interests. This article shows how participatory democracy based on two different examples can catalyse and make emerge common claims. With the example of four projects, offshore wind farm and aquaculture, in Brittany the article presents and analyses the discourses of different stakeholders towards social acceptability of the projects as well as the participatory democracy concept.
Keywords:  participative democracy, social acceptability, marine renewable energy, aquaculture, blue growth
Pages :  91 - 111
Type :  Research paper
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Title :  Public participation and management of natural resources: what potential influence for participants?
Author(s) :  Élizabeth, Durand ; Charles, DUPREZ ; Stéphanie, Yates
Abstract :  Several public authorities in the energy and natural resources sector in Canada and Quebec have set up participatory mechanisms to better integrate citizens'' concerns in the planning of their projects. To this end, the ministries have developed a corpus of texts structuring their approaches and their relationships with participants. The objective of this article is to study how the potential of influence granted to the participants on the decision-making process is transcribed in this documentation. We used we the documentation of four Canadian (2) and Quebec (2) counterpart ministries. From these documents, we carried out a qualitative analysis of content guided by six key principles emerging from the literature and testifying the influence granted to the participants. Although participatory approaches open the decision-making process to the general public, they are based on symbolic participation. Greater transparency and openness in the process through systematic reporting, a clearer definition of the role of the expert and the establishment of a culture of evaluation of the participatory process could help build a more authentic participation. The small sample of this study as well as the choice to retain six criteria prevent the generalization of this observation. However, the present study provides a better understanding of how public authorities in this sector of activity perceive the potential of participants to influence the decision-making process. It would be relevant for future research to see how these processes are actually set up and how participants perceive them.
Keywords:  public participation, social acceptability, participative democracy, energy and natural resources, environmental democracy
Pages :  113 - 135
Type :  Research paper
APA :  Durand, É., DUPREZ, C. et Yates, S. (2021) Participation publique et gestion des ressources naturelles : quel potentiel d’influence pour les participants?. Revue Internationale de Psychosociologie et de Gestion des Comportements Organisationnels (RIPCO), XXVII(69), pp. 113-135. DOI :
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