A series of public dialogues took place across three areas in the UK. The projects sought to engage the public with the planning processes of nature improvement areas. The nature of the projects varied widely in each case.
Problems and Purpose
The UK government Department, Defra, identified 12 Natural Improvement Areas (NIAs) in the UK. Sciencewise developed a funding advice package to support those involved to run a public dialogue project with Natural England as part of their work. The overarching aim of an NIA public dialogue project was to “support Natural England, Defra and partners to use public dialogue in local decision making for the development of integrated biodiversity, landscape and ecosystems policy and practice, within the context of localism and Big Society”.
The following NIAs applied for funding and were successful: Meres and Mosses, Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands, Nene Valley.
The key objectives were:
1) To embed public dialogue in the NIA planning process:
- To enable NIA partnerships to take evidence-based local policy decisions, dealing with varied and novel scientific and technical information and associated complexity and uncertainty informed by public opinion.
- To develop, test and apply novel methods of engagement processes to encourage and enable public dialogue in decision making and planning for NIAs.
2) To embed public dialogue in national policy learning from NIAs:
- To learn from (and with) the NIA partnerships about how they present and deal with scientific and technical issues to enable local decision-making;
- To encourage the public in the ongoing development of integrated policies on locally-driven, evidence-based conservation and enhancement of landscape, biodiversity, ecological networks and ecosystem services; and
- To facilitate public participation in the evaluation of progress towards ecological and wider outcomes of the NIAs. 
Dialogue approaches and activities varied across the three projects.
Background History and Context
Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) were introduced by the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper to ‘enhance and reconnect nature on a significant scale’ in England and to put communities at the heart of devolved and local decision making. NIAs are designed to revitalise urban and rural areas by creating bigger, inter- connected networks of wildlife habitats to re-establish wildlife populations and help achieve nature’s recovery. NIAs aim to improve the health of the natural environment to support food production, reduce flood risk and increase access to nature. A competition was held by Defra to identify an initial twelve NIAs who then received three years of funding to deliver an agreed work programme. This period of funding ended in March 2015; no new funding is currently proposed.
The twelve Government-funded Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) identified by Defra in 2011 - 2012 were given an opportunity in late 2012 to apply for funds from Natural England to run community nature programmes, which were to include a strand of community engagement and outreach. Through 2012, at the request of the then chair of Natural England and the lead team for NIAs at Defra, Sciencewise developed a funding package to support those NIAs who were particularly keen to apply for support from Natural England to run a public dialogue project as part of their wider work to engage communities, understand local needs and improve their local natural environment. The project started formally in March 2013 and ended in March 2015, a total of two years.
The project was funded and supported by Natural England and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) through the Sciencewise programme. Total project costs were £567k including non-recoverable VAT.
An Expression of Interest stage was completed in November 2012. Three NIAs applied for this funding in November 2012, and all were successful. These NIAs were: the Meres and Mosses of the Marches, Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands, and Nene Valley. A scoping stage was then entered which led to the development of delivery plans and detailed objectives for local public dialogue projects in those three NIA areas. The delivery plans were approved by September 2013. 
Organizing, Supporting and Funding Entities
Cost of project: £567 000
Sciencewise provided the majority of the cash funding for the project. It also provided advice via a Dialogue and Engagement Specialist (DES), advising on project set-up and oversight during the two years.
Natural England contract-managed the project centrally, overseeing timelines and budgets as well as convening regular and frequent catch-up conference calls to facilitate communication between various players on the project. Natural England was the recipient of the Sciencewise grant and agreed with the NIAs the activities that this would be spent on. In liaison with Sciencewise, NE managed the process of competition for identifying participating NIAs.
Delivery contractors were appointed by open competitive procurement to design and help deliver the dialogue work at each local NIA. One consortium was appointed to run all three dialogues involving Dialogue by Design and Icarus. Their team consisted primarily of three facilitators (one working with each NIA), and a central coordination team at Dialogue by Design.
Evaluators were also appointed by open competitive procurement to run an independent evaluation on the overall public dialogue project, including the three local dialogues at the NIA level. 3KQ were appointed to do this in August 2013, and this report is the culmination of this work. Additionally, 3KQ were asked in the late stages of the project to conduct a brief survey of the public engagement work the other nine NIAs had done. Throughout, 3KQ worked in liaison with the Project Manager at Natural England and the Evaluation Manager at Sciencewise. 
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. They aim to provide practical advice, grounded in science, on how best to safeguard England’s natural wealth for the benefit of everyone.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is a government department in the UK creating policy and working with others to deliver policies in all areas of food and rural affairs.
Dialogue by Design
Specialises in running public and stakeholder engagement processes using online, paper-based and face-to-face methods and is the dialogue deliverer for this project.
Collingwood Environmental Planning
An independent multidisciplinary environmental and sustainability consultancy, Collingwood Environmental Planning was the evaluator for this project. 
Sciencewise-ERC is a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funded programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our lives. It helps Government departments and agencies commission and use public dialogue to inform policy making, involving science and technology issues. Its core aim is to develop the capacity of Government to carry out good dialogue, to gather and disseminate good practice, have successful two-way communications with the public and other stakeholders, and to embed the principles of good dialogue into internal Government processes.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
- Total public participants involved: 434
- Total stakeholders: 3 NIAs
- Total experts involved: Three facilitators plus local NIA teams 
All three NIAs tried to engage with more than just the ‘usual suspects’ within their dialogue processes and they employed a wide variety of recruitment methods to achieve this. It is important to define who you want to engage with and why. In some sparsely populated areas, it was almost impossible to find any members of the public who did not have a pre-existing relationship with the public agencies and/or the local environment and its issues. All three NIAs felt it was important to include those that neighbour the area being discussed, as well as those that live within it.
Different recruitment methods included:
- Utilising existing contacts of the NIA partnership member organisations;
- Establishing new relationships with other organisations, such as housing associations, and utilising their networks;
- Letter or leaflet delivery to every address within a certain catchment area (particularly when a dialogue was about a particular site);
- Posters at churches, community venues, schools etc.;
- Credit card sized invites to future meetings to take away from events;
- Using the launch of an art project for primary school children to attract their parents;
- Using the local network of Parish Councils and community organisations, including promotion by local politicians;
- Local newspaper articles; and
- On site advertising (posters and NIA representatives spending time on site talking to visitors about the dialogue project). 
Methods and Tools Used
Meres and Mosses NIA
The Meres and Mosses NIA is in Shropshire and Cheshire. The dialogue adopted a stepwise approach . The dialogue project ran a series of sequential dialogue activities, enabling them to explore broad options around the management of their landscape before narrowing down on particular topics of interest. Initial scoping activities included a survey and a stakeholder workshop, followed by more focused discussions at a series of public, stakeholder and mixed dialogue workshops.
The dialogue started from a broad question to the public of “What do you value and think is special about your local landscape?” The dialogue involved a range of stakeholder and public engagement over two years that reached over 100 members of the public via 10 standardised workshops, each considering public views of choices in local landscape management.
Morecombe Bay NIA
The Morecambe Bay NIA is in Lancashire and Cumbria. The dialogue project ran four site based dialogue engagement activities concurrently, each largely separate from each other. They were the Nichols Moss Restoration, Winmarleigh Moss Restoration, Aren’t Bogs Brilliant? And Lythy Valley Dialogue.
Nene Valley NIA
The Nene Valley NIA is in Northamptonshire, running from Daventry to Peterborough. This dialogue project also delivered a range of engagement activities running at the same time. It engaged a range of members of the public through two community panel processes to develop action plans for local areas of ecological importance. Wider engagement involved a few hundred people at a much lower intensity of engagement through an interactive online space; training and guidance for other interested organisations; and wider engagement with youth and community groups. The key products were two vision statements and action plans for the two sites, alongside a re-launched website and guidance document outlining key learning points. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Meres and Mosses NIA
The Public Dialogue adopted a step-wise approach.
The start was deliberately expansive, opening up issues for discussion, gradually building understanding of participants (stakeholders and public participants). It is always difficult to begin conversations about very complex issues with an entirely open framework (‘blank-sheet-of-paper’), so the knowledge and experience of a diverse group of stakeholders helped to frame the discussion around some key issues. Balanced information, describing these issues from a number of perspectives was presented to the public to help them collectively explore the challenges and opportunities within the Nature Improvement Area that could enhance conditions for natural habitats and species and people. A total of eight small discussion groups, varying from 4 to 11 participants, plus two workshops with students (a total of 47 student participants), were held in July, August and September 2014. Within the consistent overarching framing of the deliberative sessions, participants determined the particular focus and the level of detail into which their conversation went. As they drew on the range of perspectives, experience, and local knowledge encompassed by the group, each group discussion was unique, applying different emphases on the range of subject matter introduced.
Participants were asked to:
- Identify any perceived key challenges (if any) and analyse a range of potential improvements (opportunities) or solutions;
- Consider the role of citizens, policy-shaping stakeholders and policy-makers in overcoming any perceived problems; and
- Identify their own (individual) level of ambition for developing solutions, and the kinds of solutions which might exercise them to change their behaviour, and how they expected decision makers to support and deliver positive change.
On a personal level, lack of knowledge was perhaps the most significant barrier to more active involvement of the public in contributing to or supporting landscape scale management of the Meres and Mosses. On the whole, before taking part in the dialogue, people were unaware quite how rare and threatened some of the habitats and species in the Meres and Mosses are. It follows that they were unaware of a need to intervene, nor what personal contribution they could make to action to improve conditions for nature.
Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands NIA
This dialogue project ran four site based dialogue engagement activities concurrently, each largely separate from each other. They were the Nichols Moss Restoration, Winmarleigh Moss Restoration, Aren’t Bogs Brilliant? And Lythy Valley Dialogue. Each are addressed separately (further details can be found in the Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands final report).
1) Nichols Moss Restoration
This involved a local engagement to establish delicate discussions about a joint management scheme against a backdrop of controversy on the approach to restoration of Nichols Moss. It involved 19 people in individual conversations over 10 months.
Participants addressed the following questions:
- What does the wider community value about the Moss?
- What benefits and opportunities will the restoration plan create, for nature or for local people?
- How would the wider community wish to use, access or spend time on the Moss in the future, and how can this be accommodated?
- How would the wider community wish to be involved in caring for the Moss and the wildlife that lives there in the future?
The engagement highlighted the following issues :
- Split ownership within a landscape that needs to be treated as one unit for the restoration presents significant challenges. Identifying a route that can bring landowners together constructively is pivotal to progression.
- Past dialogue between individual landowners and public bodies will have an influence on how individual landowners consider involvement in a shared scheme. This suggests value in adopting a broader, more comprehensive view when considering ongoing engagement with individual landowners.
- Public dialogue is unlikely to be a first step in relation to land in multiple private ownerships. Only when those landowners have reached a place where they are comfortable with a shared understanding of their role with regard to the wider landscape will it be possible to consider opening up the conversations to include the public in discussions about the future of that landscape.
- Identifying individual concerns across a multi-owner site is extremely valuable, though the sooner it is possible to move towards a shared group process, the more likely the potential is for successful action.
- It is important to understand the local dynamics and informal positions of influence within a collection of individual landowners in order to make informed choices as to approaches to engagement.
- The involvement of an independent facilitator enabled open and honest conversations with the landowners and helped Natural England to adopt a complementary role. This approach has been effective in (re)establishing good quality relationships with the landowners and generated the potential for a shared scheme.
- Concerns related to the management of water, and perceived risks of increased wetting to land are the principle issue for landowners in considering restoration plans.
Wimmarleigh Moss Restoration
This involved 5 detailed public and stakeholder dialogues on the planned restoration works, with 52 participants over a period of 9 weeks.
The participants addressed the following issues:
- What concerns you about the planned restoration?
- What would you like to know more about/what information is missing?
- What potential benefits and opportunities will the restoration plan create, for nature or for local people?
- What do you value most about the Moss?
- Is the planned restoration of value to stakeholders/the wider public?
- How would stakeholders / the wider public wish to use, access or spend time on the Moss in the future?
- How would stakeholders / the wider public wish to be involved in caring for the Moss and the wildlife that lives there in the future?
The following themes emerged:
- Where a proposed scheme of works has been developed, it is important to recognise the nature of the dialogue as essentially one of consultation and information giving, rather than one offering any high level influence on design. This will guide the chosen structure of the work and ensure participants are not misled as to the degree of influence available through the process.
- The involvement of a small local planning group can be important in enabling a facilitator to make the correct choices regarding the structure and approach for the dialogue activity.
- Using postal invites for the public can be reasonably effective, though recruitment may be enhanced through a greater presence of publicity in and around the villages involved, and by repeating communication between sessions.
- Communication that is simple, non-technical and non-scientific is effective in conveying information and enabling public understanding.
- A two-stage approach with structured sessions is an effective means of gathering and responding to the concerns of local people. The process identified themes regarding the concerns of local people and allowed the Wildlife Trust to respond directly to those concerns. It also created opportunities for Wildlife Trust staff and local people to establish the foundations for ongoing conversations that would be necessary or desirable during the implementation of the restoration plans.
- Anxieties about the movement of water and the perceived risks of flooding and increased wetting of neighbouring land are prominent issues raised by local people.
Aren’t Bogs Brilliant
An art installation on a wildlife reserve produced by local primary school children to raise awareness of an established restored moss (Foulshaw Moss). This involved approximately 60 participants in 2 sessions over a period of 8 weeks.
Participants addressed the following issues
- How do people perceive the Moss (and do those perceptions tally with the science)?
- What does the public value about the Moss?
- How would the public wish to be involved in caring for the Moss and the wildlife that lives there in the future?
- How would the public wish to use, access or spend time on the Moss in the future?
- What potential benefits and opportunities are there, for nature and for local people?
- How could more people find out about or make a connection with the natural environments of the Moss?
The following themes emerged:
- The combination of arts approaches and working with primary school children is an effective means of attracting members of the public to visit a bog. The majority of those who attended the launch day had not visited the site before.
- The feedback from the public indicated a willingness to re-visit Foulshaw Moss and other sites as a result of encountering the Moss for the first time. Members of the public were interested in the wildlife of the Moss and valued the natural peace and tranquillity of the site.
- Well-structured opportunities for dialogue that are positively framed can generate constructive contributions from members of the public regarding access and wildlife and increased understanding of how water works within a bog system.
This dialogue involved 62 participants, in 3 sessions across 4 months. The dialogue addressed the future vision, hopes and fears for nature and farming in Lyth Valley, in a context in which the valley was having drainage pumping removed. 
Participants addressed the following issues
- What parts of this vision do participants wish to see happen?
- What parts of this vision don’t feel right to participants?
- What would be participants vision for the nature of the valley in 2035 be within the five themes?
- What implications does the revised vision have for future policy and planning choices?
The following themes emerged:
- Plain, non-technical, non-scientific language enabled wide ranging and inclusive discussions.
- A consciously positive approach to the dialogue activity, and one that was both pro-nature and pro-farming, offered all involved a positive starting / entry point to the conversations.
- A themed approach was effective in guiding and managing the discussions.
- A positive and ambitious vision for the future, shaped by conservation agencies, farmers and the public, has been created.
- The public involved acknowledged the needs of the farming community.
- The farming community acknowledged the needs of nature and the benefits of working with conservation bodies.
- The public have anxieties regarding the role of tourism in the valley, but are ambitious in the gains they would like to see for nature. 
Nene Valley NIA
A range of members of the public were engaged through a variety of means, the most intensive of which were two community panels followed. Wider participation efforts were of a lower intensity, aimed at engaging a few hundred people through an interactive online space; training and guidance for other interested organisations; and wider engagement with youth and community groups.
The first Community Panel process for Northampton Washlands involved 12 members of the public who were recruited through a number of means and were not incentivised to attend. The Panel operated successfully and, over the course of four meetings, drafted an action plan for the Washlands. The action plan consisted of several recommendations about future management of the site, and included two options that addressed the most critical issue of dog disturbance on bird life. This was presented to the NIA Partnership Board for consideration and the Board took on responsibility for developing projects and funding to implement the actions. The key areas of interest included in this action plan were:
- Options for addressing dog disturbance in the basin area through revising current access restrictions and / or formalising alternative dog walking areas;
- Creating a mechanism for ongoing volunteer involvement on the site through the formation of a ‘Friends of’ group;
- Developing mechanisms for surveillance of anti-social behaviour on site;
- Educating users about the importance of the site and why certain access restrictions are in place;
- Pursuing professional expertise to inform the development of habitat improvements on site; and
- Understanding more about the site’s role with regard to flood management, both currently and into the future.
The second Community Panel process engaged 14 members of the public who participated across six Panel meetings. Incentives were not offered to them. Detailed deliberations took place and the Panel drafted an action plan for the two adjoining sites of Summer Leys and Mary’s Lake. The action plan included a number of recommendations about the future of the sites, with a long term aspiration for Mary’s Lake to join Summer Leys in public ownership and to be managed as a single entity. There was also a recommendation for the NIA to consider the valley as a whole and to create a zoning plan that sets management and access priorities for each site, thus ensuring that problems dealt with at one site are not simply pushed elsewhere. The key areas of interest in this action plan were as follows:
- Strategy actions – liaison with the owners of Mary’s Lake, develop a strategic zoning plan for the valley, establish a process for monitoring species and site use and sharing this data with the public, ecological review of Summer Leys and Mary’s Lake, develop citizen’s science, strategy for dealing with unseasonal flooding, and management of alien species;
- Facilities actions – review the site supervision, secure a site warden, more dog poo bins, investigate the scope for a Dog Control Zone order, re-start the ‘Friends’ group, add car park litter bin, implement a limited ‘stick and flick’ policy, improve the feeding station, improve the sand martin site;
- Communications actions – improved signage, develop user code of conduct, advice to micro light pilots, arrange more events, work with local schools; and
- Access actions – publicising alternative locations, bramble culling, re-marking the parking bays for disabled users, improving access for people with disabilities, improve surfacing in places, and addressing impact of the proposed cycle path.
The interactive NIA website was launched and was used by the University of Northampton as part of their cultural ecosystem services mapping exercise, and by the dialogue facilitator to create debate around key issues on the sites which were the focus of the second Community Panel. Responses and interaction with the dialogue were not as successful as anticipated, and there may be several reasons for this – for example, the requirement to register as a user and the low number of people who visited the site specifically for the purpose of engaging in dialogue. (NVFR)
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Meres and Mosses NIA
The project significantly increased the understanding of this NIA’s team members about public dialogue and shifted how they viewed public engagement more broadly. They also now value asking open, in- depth questions to a smaller sample of the public rather than always engaging a larger number in a more superficial way. One NIA staff member said ‘it has fundamentally changed the way in which we approach communities for the better’.
The public dialogue also resulted in five key recommendations for the NIA covering:
- Education and learning to raise awareness of the needs and role of nature in sustaining and enhancing the Meres and Mosses, and to start bringing about behaviour change in relation to choices made by public, private and community organisations and the local population
- Providing support and encouragement to modern farm businesses interested in exploring alternative approaches to sustaining their livelihoods and undertaking appropriate levels of environmental stewardship
- Making the planning system work better for people and nature, including reviewing how the NIA partnership, and other people and organisations could interact and become involved more effectively with the planning system
- Branding and marketing the Meres and Mosses. The dialogue found considerable pride was taken in the Meres and Mosses as a landscape area, particularly one that contains such ecological jewels, but few local people were aware of how special the area is
- Effective localism and greater influence for the NIA itself, based on local knowledge and priorities, and facilitating the interpretation and delivery of national policies in ways that are beneficial to the NIA.
Each of these recommendations included specific actions for the NIA team to undertake. The first action taken by the team as a consequence of these recommendations was to arrange meetings with the local planning authority to discuss how they could best engage with planning applications.
The project also created a number of products that are seen to have significant potential to impact others in future. In particular, an lm promoting the landscape and a tour based on Google EarthTM mapping service that enables the landscape to be explored virtually were produced. Both of these products are valued highly by the NIA team.
Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands NIA
The project created a number of products that conceptualised the results of the deliberations with local people and provided opportunities for future actions in the following three areas:
- The Winmarleigh Moss dialogue report is an evidence base on public views and concerns about the restoration of the bogs in this area, including the perceived risk of flooding
- The engagement work at Nichols Moss highlighted the problems and ways forward on multi-ownership landscapes where restoration is planned
- The work in the Lyth Valley created a positive approach that was pro-nature and pro-farming.
More generally, the dialogue eased the anxieties, misunderstandings and confusion that existed in relation to planned changes to landscape and water management. Although some scepticism remained, the project increased the level of buy- in from local landowners and members of the public, and created platforms for future dialogue. This was a notable change from previous discussions, which had been dominated by controversy and lack of progress. In the words of a Natural England representative ‘there is clearly more dialogue work to do to take Nichols Moss and the Lyth Valley sites forward, but the dialogue work has initiated them well.’
Other activities that were expected to lead to later impacts included the ‘Aren’t Bogs Brilliant?’ art project, which funded an artist to work with a local primary school to develop an art installation on Foulshaw Moss, bringing over 60 parents and others to the site. 
Nene Valley NIA
Two community panels were organised, which led to the production of vision statements and action plans for two important sites within the NIA’s Special Protection Area. These plans were developed with members of the community, and were positively received and endorsed by the NIA partnership:
- The panel working on Northampton Washlands created an action plan covering the future management of the site including two options that addressed the most critical issue of dog disturbance to wildlife; and volunteer involvement, surveillance of anti-social behaviour on the site and the role of the site in flood management. The NIA board agreed to take these forward
- The panel working on Summer Leys and Mary’s Lake created an action plan including joining the two sites together in public ownership, actions for better site supervision, establishing a friends’ group (since set up and running) and improved access.
Wider benefits and impacts
Beyond the impacts and learning at a local level, the following wider benefits were realised across the whole NIA programme:
- Building the capacity of Natural England staff to understand and oversee public dialogue. One staff member said ‘we convinced and educated a number of people about the nature, value and importance of good dialogue’
- Raising awareness across all 12 NIAs about public dialogue, through presentations to the NIA conference in September 2014 and an NIA Best Practice conference in February 2015. Combined, these two events set out the work undertaken and the benefits of having dialogue with the public. Informal feedback from participants to the presenters was positive
- Participating in the national experiment of local decision- making and playing an active part in an experiment of how best to do this.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The case study identifies the following lessons from the different areas.
What Worked Well
Meres and Mosses NIA
The dialogue activity included stakeholders and the public in an iterative way. This was planned and delivered in sequential stages, with:
- A stakeholder workshop to explore scenarios for landscape management, and discuss what the public could influence, as well as what stakeholders wanted to know about public attitudes
- A round of 10 public dialogue workshops to hear and explore a range of public views from over 100 public participants
- A stakeholder workshop, and a mixed stakeholder/public workshop, to reflect on and discuss the public views and the results of the dialogue.
The intertwining of stakeholders and public seemed to give credibility to the dialogue in the eyes of the NIA team as it built awareness of the dialogue, set the public discussion in the reality of the stakeholders’ lives and returned the results of the public dialogue back to the stakeholders. This was a logical and useful structure for the dialogue to take and appeared to work well.
Morecambe Bay NIA
It took some time for local ownership of the project to build and one of the breakthrough steps was the facilitator identifying a specified lead person at each of the four sites. The facilitator worked directly with each of these four leads, who then felt direct ownership of the discussions and were empowered to carry out actions and had the time to do the work. Identifying these four leads was ‘critical to getting momentum and progress’.
Nene Valley NIA
The flexibility of the project team in dealing with various delays was key to ensuring the process stayed on track and allowing the work to move at the appropriate pace for the NIA without creating discomfort and unease.
The delivery of the two community panels was well planned, well structured and had the ability to adapt depending on how the meetings developed and who was in the room. As well as strong planning and facilitation, the successful delivery of the panels owed much to key partners being in attendance and providing a sense of commitment to the outcomes, which was valued by the public participants.
What Worked Less Well
The main lessons from this project are based on common problems experienced at all three local NIAs and the work at national level:
- A more appropriate funding process for the public dialogue support, that provides greater clarity and detail in the invitation to local NIAs to bid for funds, a longer bidding process which includes a ‘scoping’ phase and support to NIAs. Ideally, had the timing been conducive, this process would have been integrated with the overall funding application process for NIA support. In particular, greater clarity was needed around the definition of what public dialogue is and is not, shared among all those involved; funding and staffing requirements; and governance arrangements such as using a local steering group and updates to the NIA partnership groups to boost ownership. This was the single most important lesson from the project
- Clearer arrangements for national and local management, to improve the opportunities for sharing learning across the local NIA projects. When these were established, local steering groups helped delivery
- Clarity over expectations of local projects within a national project. There was some confusion, leading to dissatisfaction, over issues such as the definition of ‘public’ participants (and stakeholders), what counts as public dialogue (e.g. art projects), timescales, staff resources and funding. 
 Bennett, R (2015) “Evaluation of public dialogue in England’s Nature Improvement Areas” 3KQ, July 2015
 Sciencewise (2017) “Nature Improvement Areas” (ONLINE) Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110132601/http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/nature-improvement-areas/
 Sciencewise (2016) “Case Study: Nature Improvement Areas- A Public Dialogue on Landscape Management”, March 2016
 Icarus (2015) “NIA Public Dialogue Project- Overarching Report” March 2015
 Dialogue By Design (2015) “NIA Public Dialogue Project- Meres and Mosses”, March 2015
 Dialogue by Design “NIA Public Dialogue Project- Morcambe Bay NIA”, March 2015
 Dialogue by Design “NIA Public Dialogue Project- Nene Valley”, March 2015