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Part 2: Negotiating The Maze

This handbook focuses on giving local communities the tools and information they will need to understand wastewater issues, to set up community processes for decision-making, and to develop local sustainable wastewater management systems. In Part Two we look at ideas about community planning and decision-making in detail, and give an overview of the processes and players that will have a place in your community's decision-making.

Communities can fall into a passive reaction to options and choices presented to them, rather than actively becoming involved in community development of vision and options. This can result from unfamiliarity with complex and seemingly difficult formal processes and a lack of understanding of who should be involved. It can also result from nervousness in dealing with agencies and experts.

You should read Section 4 almost as a checklist of issues, processes and players to think about – before you begin to design your own community process. Don't let the kinds of issues and the range of interests overwhelm you. Remember that each of these players has a lot of expertise in their particular area. Make use of that, make personal contact with people and develop a friendly approach. Remember that each of these players has a particular responsibility and that they are trying to manage a particular risk to human and/or ecosystem health. Respect that.

Also, remember that your community has the responsibility for finding the best fit for your area. Don't be afraid to challenge and debate ideas about risks, and ideas about solutions.

Above all, remember that many experts and communities alike are trying a whole new way of working with wastewater management 'inside' ecosystems. Old certainties about systems and technologies may not always hold true in all situations. Players will need to compromise and think about their particular concerns within this wider picture. This requires everyone to think about the impacts of technical systems on community change and on local economic systems, as well as on health and ecosystems.

For the expert and the relevant agencies, the challenge will be to manage risks while finding flexible sustainable solutions. You will need to understand the local circumstances, listen to the community's vision, and work with the people to find solutions.