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Understanding Participation
Madurai Institute of Social Sciences
S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Citizen Participation / Community Participation
People’s Participation / Public Participation
Popular Participation / Citizen’s Involvement
Co intelligence / Co creation
Stakeholder’s Participation
People are like numerals “1”[one] and the
government is like “0”[zero]. The value of
zeroes placed after “1” [one] increases but
zeroes without numerical “1” have no value

Whatever is the form of government[monarchy, oligarchy], they want to continue as rulers

by attending citizen‟s needs; but in democracy, citizen administrators relationship are
significant because the support and consent of the governed is a pre-requisite for the
sustenance of a representative government.

Citizen Participation – Concept, Meaning &

-Participatory Behavior / Forms of Participation
-Types of Participation –
Classification Principle –Jules Pretty - Arnstein,
Sherry R
-Elements of Participation
-Reasons in favor of Community Participation
-Community Outcomes
-Conditions of Citizen Participation
-Benefits and Cost of Participation
National Leaders – Planners & Administrators –
Local Elites & Individual Citizens –
-Why participation Fails?
-Measuring Participation
A. Participation in local community B. Proactivity
in a social context C. Feelings of Trust and Safety
D. Neighborhood Connections
E. Family and Friends Connections F. Tolerance
of Diversity G. Value of Life H. Work Connections

An emphasis on participation has links with the interest in democracy in community

organization and in self-help and political incorporation in the community development tradition.
But what is community participation?

Influenced by the political debates of the late 1960s more radical approaches to community
work became influential. 'Instead of As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is,
seeking to help deprived communities to not as I would like it to be The real action is in the
improve their social and environmental enemy's reaction. The enemy properly goaded and
circumstances, the new community work guided in his reaction will be your major strength
- Saul Alinsky
activists urged that people take direct
political action to demand changes and improvements'. Saul Alinsky was especially influential.
He had a history of mobilizing and organizing grass roots campaigns and he caught many
people's imaginations through his evident commitment and experience, and his ability to
articulate his thoughts in catchy phrases

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Participation is a rich concept that varies with its

In the late 1960s there was a series of
application and definition. The way participation is debates around 'participation'. While
defi ned also depends on the context in which it 'participation' may be a vague term its
occurs. For some, it is a matter of principle; for advocates often rely on two key
others, practice; for still others, an end in itself arguments about its value. It makes for
(World Bank, 1995). Indeed, there is merit in all justice in decision-making - people have
these interpretations. some say in, and influence on, collective
Participation is a stereotype word like children use
Lego pieces. Like Lego pieces the words fi t
decisions. has an educative value.
arbitrarily together and support the most fanciful Through participation people learn.
constructions. They have no content, but do serve a
function. As these words are separate from any These interests became formalized in a
context, they are ideal for manipulative purposes. number of United Nations reports
„Participation‟ belongs to this category of word. including Popular Participation in
Often the term participation is modified with Development (1971) and Popular
adjectives, resulting in terms such as community
participation, citizen participation, people‟s
Participation in Decision Making for
participation, public participation, and popular Development (1975).
participation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines
participation as “to have a share in” or “to take part According to Midgley, the notion of
in,” thereby emphasizing the rights of individuals popular participation and that of
and the choices that they make in order to community participation are interlinked.
participate. Arnstein (1969) states that the idea of The former is concerned with broad issues
citizen participation is a little like eating spinach: no
one is against it in principle because it is good for
of social development and the creation of
you. But there has been little analysis of the content opportunities for the involvement of
of citizen participation, its definition, and its people in the political, economic and
relationship to social imperatives such as social social life of a nation, 'the latter connotes
structure, social interaction, and the social context the direct involvement of ordinary people
where it takes place. in 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 the
development 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.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

People, the most valuable resource

Three types of communities the Community Organizer has to deal with
 Need or Benefit Community
 Action Community
 Target or response Community
Taken together they are called as citizens. There are times these three looks like three different
communities and at times when they are one in the same.
Types of Participants.
Change efforts require different type of requirements
 People, their commitment
 Particular talents and assets
 Positive personality characters

The right stuff

People and their
Particular talents and assets (Positive personality
commitment equirements)
Leaders:(Core group Numbers: Numbers give credibility and a The organization cannot
participants) The core group sense of confidence to participants and be divorced from the
who worry more, plan more, outside observers personal characteristics
provide more direction for the Doers: Those who share the work of its more influential
project than others Opinion leaders: People, especially unsure, members. Following are
Workers: (Active participants) frequently, look to select a few to help inform some of the attributes of
These group support and shape their perception. These people people like to have in a
organization and it‟s aims,but may motivate others who are uncertain about team
Roll with the punches:
choose not to take part in all the agency work
Optimistic people, who
deliberations. Potential organization leaders: Leaders
stand during testing
Assisters: (Occasionally active aren‟t necessarily those people who are
participants) these group do always in the spotlight. There are many Good sense of humor:
things when the mood strikes different leadership functions. Some of the Humor energizes,
them or when they are valuable roles include strategies, releases tension
specifically asked. Moderately coordinators, public speakers, problem Tenacity: An anti-toad
interested solvers and those who help to improve to disease of ‘give up it
One shot participants: This communication is’
category includes those who do Motivators: Over a period of members may Risk taking ability:
something only once or are get tired, motivators may fan the spark of Ability to try some thing
involved for only a short period energy new, unconventional
of time and then dissappear Influence connections: Influential people ideas.
from the scene altogether. explain the project goal to others, resist Regard for others:
Advisers: Advisers give little opponents and make people to go along. Self-reliance: Ability to
sustained attention to the Specialized Skills or Talents: Any work with out blue
project; they can provide organized effort requires skills in certain prints; who trust their
particular insight; areas such as writing, planning, negotiating own ability.
They are objective. and running meetings Desire to learn:
Inactive general supporters: Access to other resources: In addition to Responsibility
Decision making
Their assistance come in the people, project may require variety of other
form of an endorsement for the resources (meeting rooms, typing etc.) to get
project the job done
Each person has some thing to contribute.

How to get the people’s involvement?

1. Contact People
2. Give people a reason to join
3. Ask them to join
4. Maintain their involvement

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Changes in policy-making mechanisms and administrative practice

Bureaucracy New public New governance
Peak of popularity 1920s–1970s 1980s–1990s Mid 1990s–today
Overall approach „Bureaucratism‟ „Managerialism‟ „Governance‟
Guiding principle Accountability Efficiency Effectiveness
Governance mode Hierarchy Market Network
Governance mechanism Command & control Competition Co-operation/ collaboration
Compliance/ ownership Control/enforcement Incentives Involvement, negotiation
mechanism and persuasion

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

The purpose of administration is to promote citizen’s participation and thereby satisfaction

Meaning of Participation
In theory, mental participation is possible by identifying oneself with groups and institutions
without coming to any overt action. In the context of community organization, participation
will be looked upon as an overt act or set of acts that can be observed and that can be of
relevance in the process of planned development.

In this sense “Participation is a special form of interaction and communication which

implies the sharing of power, responsibilities and benefits”.

In this context attention will be given to participatory behavior that consists of one or all the
following activities:
 Joining gatherings of a group or groups.
 Involving oneself in discussions of a group
 Involving oneself in the organizational aspects of the participation process such as:

 Organizing group meetings

 Inducing non – members to join
 Leading discussions
 Campaigning etc.
 Making available labour, capital facilities and mental capabilities.
 Taking part in the decision process by expressing opinions and /by voting on subjects
such as Paul’s five objectives to which community
 Objectives and targets to be achieved by participation might contribute are:
the groups. 1. Sharing project costs: participants are asked to
 The way to achieve them (Programs) contribute money or labor (and occasionally
goods) during the project’s implementation or
 The allocating of scarce resources operational stages.
available to the group over the various 2. Increasing project efficiency: beneficiary
programs. consultation during project planning or benefi ciary
(Priority ranking and acceptance of involvement in the management of project
programs and projects) implementation or operation.
3. Increasing project effectiveness: greater
 Policies to be followed by higher echelons beneficiary involvement to help ensure that the
of the societal organization. project achieves its objectives and that benefits go
 Election of persons to represent the group to the intended groups.
in institutions and activities that can affect 4. Building beneficiary capacity: either through
ensuring that participants are actively involved in
the group. project planning and implementation or through
 Assessment of effectiveness, efficiency formal or informal training & consciousness -
and relevance of implemented projects or raising activities.
programs. 5. Increasing empowerment: defined as seeking
 Sharing of benefits resulting from projects to increase the control of the underprivileged
sectors of society over the resources and
or programs eg. Irrigation projects (Pani decisions affecting their lives and their
panchayat). participation in the benefits produced by the
society in which they live.
Other Definitions
Participation is considered as a voluntary contribution by the people to one or another of the
public programs supposed to contribute to national development, but the people are not expected
to take part in shaping the program or criticizing its content - ECLA.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Participation means… in its broadest sense, to sensitize people and thus, to increase the
receptivity and ability of the rural people to respond to development programs, as well as to
encourage local initiatives -- Uma Lele.
Participation fatigue
Participation or consultation „fatigue‟ is
With regard to rural development … participation caused by lack of action resulting from
includes people‟s involvement in decision making discussions rather than the discussions
process, implementing programs… their sharing in the themselves. Why should people spend
benefits of development programs, and their involvement precious time describing their experience
and explaining their ideas if nothing
in efforts to evaluate such programs – FAN. Lisk actually changes as a result?

Popular participation in development should be broadly understood as the active involvement of

people in the decision making process in so far as it affects them – Upholf and Lohen

Community involvement means that people, who have both the right and the duty to participate
in solving their own problems, have greater responsibilities in assessing their needs, mobilizing
local resources and suggesting new solutions, as well as creating and maintaining local
organizations – W.H.O.
People aimed in the participatory process
 Particular professional association (Dr, Ers, etc.)
Participation is considered to be an active  Pressure groups (Chamber of Commerce, Trade
process, meaning that the person or group in Union, etc.)
question takes initiatives and asserts his / her or  Clientele groups (Farmers, etc.)
[“Except on the Election Day general public does not
its autonomy to do so. -- Md. A. Rahman. exist‟]
Each agency must identify the ‘Public’ relevant to it
Participation…means the organized efforts to and address them accordingly.
increase control over resources and regulative
institutions in given social situations, on the part of groups and movements of those hither to
excluded form such control – Pearse and Stiefel.

People Resist Change When . . . “Public participation is any process that involves the
It is not understood public in problem solving, planning, policy setting, or
• It is imposed decision-making and uses public input to make
• It is perceived as threatening
• It has risks greater than its potential
benefits, or it interferes with other
priorities It is a process through which people who will be
There is more than one way to affected by or interested in a decision – those with a
involve citizens . . . stake in the outcome – get a chance to influence its
Direct Mail, New Releases, Website, content before it is made . . .”
Public Education Meetings
Opinion Surveys, Public Hearings,
“Citizen participation is a purposeful activity of
Focus Groups, Open House citizens taking part in governmental decision-making
Citizen Advisory Committee, outside the electoral process. Through citizen
Visioning participation, citizens can advise elected officials and
Referenda, Citizen Planning in turn, elected officials can advise citizens.”
Committee or Commission
Participation is a way of viewing the world and acting
in it. It is about a commitment to help create the conditions which lead to significant
empowerment of those who at present have little control over the forces that condition their lives.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Basis is to maintain proper Public Relations

1. Learning about public wishes and aspirations
2. Advising the public about what it should think desire and do in specific spheres of activity.
3. Cultivating satisfactory contact between the officials & the public
4. Keeping the public informed about what an administrative agency is doing.

Why participation fails?

The bulk of the citizens come into contact with civil servants at the bottom; both civil servants
and citizens at this level are inarticulate and uninfluential. The problem of citizen
dissatisfaction as well as civil servants point of view at the lower levels goes unrepresented and
unattended to.

Administrators Citizens
Callousness, aloofness, haughtiness, suspicion Ignorance, indifference, Reluctance Fear &
and resentment of administrators towards the Recrimination, Sympathetic understanding of the
citizens requests of demands, Administrators limitations, low percentage of enlightened
properly respond to the needs & demands of the citizens, High degree of parasitic dependence,
public, Extraneous influences affecting the day to Low propensity to respect public property &
day administration, Delays in the formulation of public authority, Citizens non interest in
policies, universality of low standard of conduct acquiring knowledge about government
in public life

To achieve proper citizen participation, four requisites are:

1. Adequate knowledge about the operation of the administration - inadequate knowledge
facilitate despotic administration- too much knowledge will interfere in administration
autonomy and pride sub–survient behavior.
2. Self-interest: Public must consider that it‟s self interest is being served by the public
3. Principle Mindedness: Administration is
done by certain principles. This should be
4. Prestige: Giving adequate value &
prestige toward public employment as
compared with other types of carriers. Very
low & very high prestige values interfere in
the administrative ability - low prestige brings
about subservient administration, high
prestige value – result in despotic
Importance of the role of citizens:
 Conflict between democratic process and
development requirements.
 Democracy means majority rule & wishes
that do not always coincide with national
 It is a slow process to get consensus – to compromise – sometimes it may look like
incompetence – but it is better to have faith in democracy or otherwise requirements of
speedy development may destroy the democracy.
 People‟s participation means politicization- this in the form of organised groups helps in
policy making & implementation
S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Nature of People’s Participation.

 CD Program – economic &
social regeneration
 PR – democratic
 Promotion of co- operatives
 Promotion of NGO‟s
 Program of worker‟s education
 Creation of a large number of
advisory bodies

Participation depends upon

1. Size of the country
2. Extent of social awareness
Development process distributes
patronage & favors–enlightened
approach of Co-operation between
politician & administrators is
Non interference in day to day
Complex task of resolving conflicts
Perspectives of development
Enlarging his wage income through
higher wage per work day &
increase the number of work days –---Lower price for food grains
The ‘ word ’ participation should not be accepted without appropriate clarification
A typology of participation: how people participate in development programmes and projects (from Pretty,

Typology Components of Each Type

1. Passive People Participates by being told what is going to happen or has already happened. It
Participation is a unilateral announcement by an administration or project management without any
listening to people’s responses. The information being shared belongs only to
external professionals.
2.Participation in People participate by answering questions posed by extractive researchers using
Information questionnaire surveys or similar approaches. People do not have the opportunity to
Giving influence proceedings, as the findings of the research are neither shared nor checked
for accuracy.
3. Participation People participate by being consulted, and external agents listen to views. These
by Consultation external agents define both problems and solutions, and may modify these in the light
of people’s responses. Such a consultative process does not concede any share in
decision making and professionals are under no obligation to take on board people’s
4. Participation People participate by providing resources, for example labour, in return for food, cash
for Material or other material incentives. Much on farm research falls in this category, as farmers
Incentives provide the fields but are not involved in the experimentation or the process of
learning. It is very common to see this called participation, yet people have no stake
in prolonging activities when the incentives end.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

5.Functional People participate by forming groups to meet predetermined objectives related to the
Participation project, which can involve the development or promotion of externally initiated social
organization. Such involvement does not tend to be at early stages of project cycles
or planning, but rather after major decisions have been made. These institutions tend
to be dependent on external initiators and facilitators, but may become self –
6.Interactive People participate joint analysis, which leads to action plans and the formation of new
Participation local institutions or the strengthening of existing ones. It tends to involve
interdisciplinary methodologies that seek multiple perspective and make use of
systematic and structured learning processes. These groups take control over local
decisions, and so people have a stake in maintaining structures or practices.
7.Self – People participate by taking initiatives independent of external institutions to change
Mobilization systems. Such self – initiated mobilization and collective action may or may not
challenge existing inequitable distributions of wealth and power.
Manipulative participation - Pretending– representatives only
1 – 4 – achievements are likely to have no positive lasting effect on people’s lives.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Types of Participation

Models of Participation - the wheel Davidson, 1998

Figure 1

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Classification of Participation
Classification Principle Types
1. Degree of voluntariness Free Participation
 Spontaneous
 included
Forced Participation
Legislative Force
Socio economic condition
Customary participation
2. Way of Involvement Direct Participation
Indirect Participation
3.Involvement in the planned Complete Participation
development process Partial Participation
4.Level of organization Organized Participation
Unorganized Participation
Reasons in favor of Community
5.Intensity of Participatory Intensive Participation
Activities Extensive Participation
 More will be accomplished
6.Range of activities than can Unlimited Participation
 Services can be provided at
be influenced Limited Participation
lower cost
7.Degree of effectiveness Effective Participation
 Participation has an intrinsic
 Complete
value for participants
 Partial
Ineffective Participation  Participants are catalysts for
8.Who is participating? Members of the local further development efforts
community  Participation leads to a sense
Local residents organized on of responsibility for the project
the basis of territory  Participation guarantees that a
Local residents organized on felt need is involved
the basis of common interest  Participation ensures things are
Local leaders done in right way
Government Personnel  Participation ensures use of
Outsiders indigenous knowledge of
9.Objective and style of Participation in Locality expertise
Participation development.  Freedom from dependence on
Participation in Social Planning. professionals
Participation in Social Action  People are conscientized.

(Long-term) Objectives of There are many different ways to think of and explain
participation public participation processes. Participation as a part
 Stronger legitimacy of the of a political process. There is no one universal public
decisions participation strategy and no one universal public
 Decrease in the alienation of the participation handbook could be developed for the
public from the process of great diversity of cases of public participation in the
governing world. In countries with different legal frameworks
 Rise in the activeness of the strategies for involvement of stakeholders and public
society at large into decision-making processes need to be
 Decisions with better quality different.
Generally better awareness about

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Classification of Participatory Involvement Techniques and Examples

Information Information the Listening to Involving the public
gathering public the public in decisions
- PRA techniques - radio and TV - focus groups - Brainstorming
- surveys - newspapers - surveys - Village committees
- questionnaires - displays, exhibits - site visits - Planning cells
- site visits - conferences - PRA - round table
- polls - public seminars techniques - simulation games
- stakeholder analysis - workshops - consensus building

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Benefits and Cost of Participation

Benefits Costs
A. National Leaders A. National Leaders
Participation can eliminate popular resistance to Participation can lead to curtailment of power
decisions. of leaders.
Participation can increase the legitimacy of As a result of participation the level of conflict
authority. in a society may increase.
Participation can increase the speed of As a result participation decisions are forced
implementation. less on the basis of technical criteria than on
Via participation benefits of projects can be more basis of misinformation and prejudices of the
directed to wards the ‟felt needs‟ of the messes
population. Participation can delay (due to internal
Via participation it is possible to mobilize more conflicts) the decision process concerning
resources. projects and office programs of importance for
Via participation it is possible to decrease the staying in office for political leaders.
level of conflict.
B. Planners and Administrators B. Planners and administrators
Participation can facilitate collecting of As a result of participation information
information for planning purposes. processing becomes more complex.
Participation can result in more information about Participation requires an effort on the part of
present behavioral patterns and likely planners to present alternatives in such a way
information. that compromise can be made.
Participation enables planners to ascertain what As a result of participation decision time is
people desire. lengthened.
Participation can give more information on Participation can make it more difficult to
available resources (such as willingness regarding ensure uniform quality and provide central
self–help projects) services.
Participation can help planners to plan more When participation lengthens the planning
ambitiously and at the same more realistically. process and creates conflict at various levels
When plans prepared in a participatory way can planners will lose influence by their superiors.
be implemented quickly, planner will obtain merit Participation can decrease power position
by their supervisors. based on experience.
Participation can increase the power position of Participation used by planners and
planners and administrators versus politicians administrators can bring them in conflict with
C. Local administrators and government C. Local administrators and government
agencies: agencies:
Participation can increase productivity Participation increases decision time.
Participation can improve levels of information for Participation can lead to relative loss of
management. personal power and status.
Participation can reduce negative conflicts. Participation can lead to conflicts in their area
Participation can strengthen the legitimacy for of competence.
action. Participation will result in loss of confidence
Participation can increase confidence of superiors over the local administrators by their superiors.
in local administrators.
D. Local Elites: D. Local Elites:
Participation can channel existing conflicts at the Participation will diminish their power.
local level and therefore stabilize their position. Participation costs time to attend meetings, to
By obtaining position of leadership in vote and to inform one self about issues.
participatory organizations they obtain another
means to safeguard their power basis.

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

E. Individual citizens E. Individual citizens

Participation has educational effects such as Participation costs time to attend meetings, to
 A sense of effectiveness to action and solving vote and to inform one self about issues.
problems. Participation requires accepting a greater
 An increased sense of personal efficiency. responsibility; this is often psychologically
Participation can create an urge for self – reliance costly in case of conflict.
that mobilizes social energy that can result in a Participation can lead to role conflicts in certain
better way of life in the community of the societies and can lead to diminishing of relative
individual citizens. levels of security due to loosening of certain
Participation can lead to better distribution of types of relationships (client – patron).
power among citizens.
Participation can lead to a better distribution of
effects of development among citizens.
Participation can give the participating citizens
more status and power.

Participation & Bureaucrats - The Challenges

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Models of Civic Engagement

Basic models of individual civic engagement and be simplified into four general models:
1. Direct engagement: the individual acts alone to influence society and
2. Grassroots engagement: individuals act as a part of a loose coalition.
3. Organizational engagement: people work through nonprofit and advocacy
organizations with governing boards and centralized leadership.
4. Network-centric engagement: an individual acts as part of a coordinated
Direct Action
With direct action, participants individually engage with the government. Lone actors
seek to exert influence based on their own capacity to do so.
In a grassroots model, individuals work together with others to develop a strategy,
collect necessary resources and implement action in an informal alliance. Such
grassroots advocacy is characterized by a lack of an official top-down organizational
structure to govern, manage resources and direct engagement. Pure grassroots
advocacy is rare and usually localized. Typical examples include neighborhood zoning
fights, school improvement, crime prevention efforts, small restoration or clean up
efforts. Volunteers, leaders and supporters emerge to accomplish a specific task, then
disband over time. All the resources, experience, knowledge, volunteer lists, leaders,
etc. are unofficial and undocumented. Any lessons learned are likely to be lost to the
larger movement.
Characteristics of Grassroots Engagement
No official leadership* No control* Rapidly expandable* Lots of inefficient duplication of
work and learning* Work travels along “chain”
Organizational engagement:
Organizational Advocacy
Organizational advocacy is characterized by the use of a particular organization that
serves as a vehicle for engagement between the individual and government or other
policy-making entity. An organization’s membership and constituency engage via proxy,
allowing the organization to advocate on their behalf. Organizations recruit and manage
volunteers, leaders and supporters. Organizations develop governance structures to
direct efforts and manage resources including staff time, reputation, political clout and
Characteristics of Organizational Engagement
Central leadership *Effective tools sharing within organization *Efficient and directed
Controlled expansion *Support directed to central node *Communication, resources
travels through central hub
Network-Centric Advocacy
Finally, network-centric advocacy is a hybrid of the individual determination and
participation typical of direct and grassroots models with the efficiencies and strengths
of the organizational model. The hybrid is only possible because of the increased
density of communications connections among potential participants and the ability to
scale those connections to meet demand. The network-centric advocacy focuses on
supporting individual engagement by connected grid resources (that may reside with
individuals or organizations). The network-centric approach relies on dense
communication ties to provide the synchronizing effects, prioritization and deployment
roles of the organization. The potential for network-centric advocacy increases with
each advancement in connectivity technology (web meetings, phone wi-fi,
teleconference, voice mail, cell phones, voice over IP, etc.) and drop in transportation
cost (flights, low cost shipping, etc.)
Characteristics of Network-Centric Engagement
Lots of leadership *Self-organizing teams *Rapidly expandable *Efficient
*Communication and resources travel in all directions
Five Critical Steps to Support Network-Centric Advocacy
1. Foster Strong Social Ties 2.Support a Common Story 3Create Universal Technology
and Communication Tools 4.Create Mechanisms for Legal, HR and Financial Needs
5.Unify Self Enforced Campaign Rules

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Participatory democracy theoretical traditions

Maximum Self-Development:
Recognizes political participation as a value that, in itself, is necessary to the growth and
development of its citizens
Argues that the provision of political conditions which allow for “maximum self-development” and
the “opportunity to enlarge their vision and sense of themselves” is compulsory
Ordinary citizens are both capable, and obligated, to strive to develop an awareness of their self-
interest and to cultivate an empathy with, and a commitment to, the well-being of others.
Against an Elitist Orientation – Expanding Democracy:
A common critique of participatory theory and an argument of liberal democratic theory, based on
numerous surveys and empirical studies, suggest that large portions of the public are poorly
informed and politically passive.
Participation & Equality
Participation and equality as mutually reinforcing
Participation translates into power, generating greater equality between the classes, which functions
as a catalyst for subordinate classes to continue the struggle for equality.
Community economic development & participatory democracy as mutually reinforcing
Both address and aspire to reduce inequalities, i.e. political, social, and economic
Both seek to strengthen democracy
Both work to empower citizens
Both emphasize community and seek to enhance the quality of life
Both promote collaboration and partnership building
Both value inclusive citizen participation and encourage all citizens to express their preferences
Both encourage citizens to develop a an awareness of their self-interest as well as a commitment to
the well-being of others

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

Principles of Public Participation

Public participation in democratic society is both vital and problematic. Some public
meetings are so dysfunctional that observers end up wishing someone in charge would
bring an end to the chaos and misery. Sometimes extensive public input is sought in
numerous forums, only to have all that input ignored. In order to make participation as
a reality we must be guided by a series of principles:
The three lists given here provide very powerful criteria for evaluating or improving
the status of public participation in any community or project.

The International Association for Public Principles of Public Participation

Participation's Core Values Inclusivity
1. Public participation is based on the belief that Diversity
those who are affected by a decision have a right to Building community participation
be involved in the decision-making process. Flexibility
2. Public participation includes the promise that the Accessibility
public's contribution will influence the decision. Accountability
3. Public participation promotes sustainable Trust, Commitment and Respect
decisions by recognizing and communicating the
needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially
affected by or interested in a decision.
5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to
participate in a meaningful way.
7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the

The Community Development Society's Principles of Good Practice

1. Promote active and representative participation toward enabling all community
members to meaningfully influence the decisions that affect their lives.
2. Engage community members in learning about and understanding community
issues, and the economic, social, environmental, political, psychological, and other
impacts associated with alternative courses of action.
3. Incorporate the diverse interests and cultures of the community in the community
development process; and disengage from support of any effort that is likely to
adversely affect the disadvantaged members of a community.
4. Work actively to enhance the leadership capacity of community members, leaders,
and groups within the community.
5. Be open to using the full range of action strategies to work toward the long term
sustainability and well being of the community.

The Co-Intelligence Institute's Principles to Nurture Wise Democratic Process

and Collective Intelligence in Public Participation
1. Include all relevant perspectives
2. Empower the people's engagement
3. Invoke multiple forms of knowing.
4. Ensure high quality dialogue.
5. Establish ongoing participatory processes.
6. Use positions and proposals as grist.
S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

7. Help people feel fully heard.

Participatory Practitioners for Change (PPfC) prescribed the following

1. People are experts in their lives, others learn from them.
2. Participatory work tries to include everyone relevant to the activity. Participants
try to find those who need to be involved and to include voices and ideas that may
not normally be heard.
3. In good participatory work people take ownership of the process (using their
analysis, their logic and their words) that is developed together with others from
many different backgrounds.
4. Participatory work follows cycles of learning- each step helping to form the next
5. Participatory work requires people to be self-reflective. Practitioners continuously
examine and develop their practice.
6. Participatory work is rigorous and ethical. Participants continuously check their
work and design ways of testing the process and the findings.
7. Participatory work should lead to action.
8. Good participatory work should recognize the role of power in relationships and
seeks to lead to empowerment of those disadvantaged by the present situation.

Examples of the practical application of these principles

Principle Examples of applying these principles
Inclusivity Identifying and recognizing existing social networks, structures, organizations, social
clubs and institutions and use them as a vehicle for communication
Diversity Ensure that different interest groups including women, the disabled and youth groups
are part of governance structures
Building Solicit funding from external sources to train ward committees on their role in
community development
capacity Embarking on consumer education on all aspects of local governance including the
functions and responsibilities of the municipality and different municipal structures
Transparency Engendering trust in the community by opening council meetings to the public and
encouraging attendance
Flexibility Being flexible in terms of time, language and approaches to public meetings
Accessibility Conducting public meetings in the local language
Accountability Ensuring report backs to community forums or ward committees at least on a
quarterly basis
Trust,Commitment Ensuring that the purpose of the process is explained adequately, as well as how it
& Respect will develop
Integration Integrating ward planning with the IDP process
Including user committees into mainstream services, eg School Governing Bodies

Benefits of Participation (Adapted from Twigg, 2001)

 Participatory initiatives are likely to be sustainable as they build on local capacity,
the participants have „ownership‟ of them and they are more likely to be
compatible with long term development plans.
 Working closely with local people can help professionals gain a greater insight into
the communities that they serve, enabling them to work more effectively and
produce better results.
 They enable people to express their real needs and priorities, allowing problems to
be defined correctly and responsive measures to be designed and implemented

S.Rengasamy - Understanding Participation

 The principle resource available for responding to climate change impacts is people
themselves and their local knowledge and expertise.
 Participatory work takes a multi-track approach. It can combine information from
many different sources, qualitative and quantitative data and different phases of a
process. It is therefore perfect for dealing with complex issues where there are
diverse opinions.
 The process of working and achieving things together can strengthen communities.
It can reinforce local organization, building up confidence, skills, capacity to co-
operate, consciousness, awareness and critical appraisal. In this way it increases
people‟s potential for reducing their vulnerability. It empowers people more
generally by enabling them to tackle other challenges, individually and collectively.
 Participation in the planning and implementation of projects by stakeholders
accords with people‟s rights to participate in decisions that affect their lives. It is
therefore an important part of democratization in society and is increasingly
demanded by the public.
 Participatory approaches may be more cost effective, in the long term, than
externally driven initiatives, partly because they are more likely to be sustainable
and because the process allows the ideas to be tried and tested and refined before