S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation
In the late 1960s there was a series of debates around 'participation'. While'participation' may be a vague term itsadvocates often rely on two keyarguments about its value. It makes for justice in decision-making - people havesome say in, and influence on, collectivedecisions. has an educative value.Through participation people learn.These interests became formalized in anumber of United Nations reportsincluding
Popular Participation inDevelopment
PopularParticipation in Decision Making
forDevelopment (1975).According to Midgley, the notion of popular participation and that of community participation are interlinked.The former is concerned with broad issuesof social development and the creation of opportunities for the involvement of people in the political, economic andsocial life of a nation, 'the latter connotesthe direct involvement of ordinary peoplein local affairs'.One United Nations document defined community participation as: The creation of opportunities to enable all members of a community to actively contribute to and influence thedevelopment process and to share equitably in the fruits of development.This is a very general definition of participation and raises as many questions as it answers.
Participation is a rich concept that varies with itsapplication and definition. The way participation isdefi ned also depends on the context in which itoccurs. For some, it is a matter of principle; forothers, practice; for still others, an end in itself (World Bank, 1995). Indeed, there is merit in allthese interpretations.Participation is a stereotype word like children useLego pieces. Like Lego pieces the words fi tarbitrarily together and support the most fancifulconstructions. They have no content, but do serve afunction. As these words are separate from anycontext, they are ideal for manipulative purposes.
„Participation‟ belongs to this category of word.
Often the term participation is modified withadjectives, resulting in terms such as
community participation, citizen participation, people
participation, public participation,
. The Oxford English Dictionary defines
participation as “to have a share in” or “to take partin,” thereby emphasizing the rights of individuals
and the choices that they make in order toparticipate. Arnstein (1969) states that the idea of citizen participation is a little like eating spinach: noone is against it in principle because it is good foryou. But there has been little analysis of the contentof citizen participation, its definition, and itsrelationship to social imperatives such as socialstructure, social interaction, and the social contextwhere it takes place.