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14.0 Introduction

In the modern world, a democratic nation is faced with varied problems

that it needs to solve. It has to make decisions and positive efforts in
order to plan and control results. This process is referred to as
policymaking: all government agencies and officers are involved in this.
Any governmental activity involves a policy element, that is, making
decisions about what is to be done. It also involves an administrative
element, that is, the actions by which the decisions can be put into
practice. Thus government can regulate industry and business, protect its
citizens, help the state and city governments, and provide for the poor,
through its public policies. Some policies find expression in statutes, while
others are made and administered in the absence of them.

14.1 The Policy Making Process

There are several stages in the establishment and carrying out of a policy
by the government. These include agenda building, formulation, adoption,
implementation, evaluation and termination.

14.1a Agenda building

In order to create a policy, the governments attention has to be focused

on a pressing problem requiring legislation. For instance, rivers and
streams periodically overflow causing great loss to property and life.
Further, winds and rains erode the land and rob it of its fertility. A social
demand then arises for taking some action regarding the control and
development of river valleys, and the conservation of natural resources.
Thus the legitimate public business comprises the agenda of the state.
Again, for example, strife between labor and management may disrupt
essential services or raise the cost of living. People may then demand the
establishment of social machinery for preventing costly work stoppages
and for promoting harmonious labor management relations. In modern
times, juvenile delinquency shows a tendency to increase. Hence people
look out for ways of diverting the energies of the youth into healthy and
useful channels. The agenda of the state thus includes the things that
government has to do in order to maintain a vital community.

14.1b Formulation and adoption

Policy formulation involves adoption of an approach for solving a

problem. There may be choice between a negative and a positive
approach to a problem. The Congress, the executive branch and the
courts may favor dependence on impersonal forces to correct momentary
difficulties. However interest groups may desire vigorous human
interference with these forces to control persistent difficulties. Either of

these approaches involve the formulation of policy. After a policy is
formulated, a bill is presented to the Congress, or proposed rules are
drafted by regulatory agencies. The adoption of a policy takes place only
when legislation is passed, or regulations are finalized or a decision has been
passed by the Supreme Court.

14.1c Implementation

The carrying out of policy or its implementation is usually done by other

institutions than those that were responsible for its formulation and
adoption. Many problems are technically so complex and difficult that the
legislature does not try to deal with them in detail. The legislature thus
indicates the broad lines of policy, and leaves the elaboration of the policy
to other governmental agencies. The complexity of the policy,
coordination between the agencies putting it into effect and compliance,
determine how successfully the policy is implemented. An example is seen
in the case of the parity price aspect of the American farm program. The
Congress sets the ideal in statutes: the farmers should receive an income
from the sale of their crops that will bring them into a position of parity
with respect to the prices of the non-farm goods that they must buy. The
Congress then delegated to administrative officers certain discretionary
powers to work out the details of this program, in the interests of the
nation. Thus the details of the contemporary farm program are found
mainly in administrative rulings.

14.1d Evaluation and Termination

Evaluation involves checking how well the policy is working out, which is
definitely a difficult task. The cost-benefit analysis is used by people
inside and outside government to determine whether government
expenditure on a particular program, is justified by the benefits derived
from it. Further, different or also contradictory interpretations may be
obtained from the data that forms the basis of the cost -benefit analysis.

It is difficult to terminate policies, once they have been implemented.

Generally policies which are absolute, failed to work, or did not find
support among interest groups, have to be terminated. Thus the national
speed limit of 55 miles that was enacted by the Congress in 1974,
succeeded in reducing highway fatalities and gasoline consumption.
However the law had to be repealed in 1987, since the resulting increased

costs for the trucking industry were viewed as a federal intrusion into an
area belonging to the state regulation.

14.2 Politics and Policy Making

Politics and policymaking are linked to each other. The legislative process
is also viewed as a continuous struggle carried out by opposing groups, to
secure power and control of public policy. The individual legislator is
subject to a variety of complex and conflicting forces and influences. For
example, President Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in 1996, that
imposed cuts in direct federal aid and new work requirements that was
presented by the Republican-controlled Congress. However, since this
legislation troubled several Democrats and organizations representing the
poor, he indicated that he would seek changes in the law in the next
session of the Congress.

14.2a Fragmented Policies

Fragmented policies are often the result of the very nature of the U.S.
system of government. Owing to the separation of powers, the system of
checks and balance, and federalism, one institution alone is not
responsible for making policy. For example, the federal government’s
view on immigration reform, is different from those of the governors of
states mandated to make provisions for services to illegal immigrants.
The opposing views of interest groups also influence the issue.

Fragmentation may also arise from the lack of coordination among agencies.
Thus, for example, the entry of illegal drugs into the country has to be prevented
by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), the Customs service, and the Coast Guard, the local and
state police, who sometimes have overlapping jurisdictions, resulting in

14.2b Politics in Congress

The manner in which things are done in the Congress may hamper or
advance the formulation and adoption of public policy. Bills that are
enacted to provide appropriations for political purposes to a special group
or region of the country are referred to as pork-barrel legislation by
the opponents of the legislation. Thus bills for the construction of major
public works may create jobs, but at the same time may be contrary to a
broader policy direction, such as the requirement for a cut in the federal
budget deficit.

The practice of reciprocity or logrolling is another method of backing

public policy. Thus a senator requests and receives many favors and

courtesies from his fellow senators, with the understanding that he will
repay the kindness in some form. Thus a senator may be out of town and
request a delay in the vote on a particular bill. Reciprocity may involve
trivial pleasantries or millions of dollars in traded votes for public works

14.2c Iron triangles and issue networks

Public policy is not affected only by elected officials. Iron triangles exist
between congressional committees, administrative agencies and lobbyists,
and these exert considerable influence. An issue network comprising of
Congress members, committee staff, administrative and regulatory
agency directors and staff, lobbies, executive department officials and
scholars, also work on specific public policy. Scholars such as economists,
sociologists and political scientists offer to congressional committee
important views on issues, after their years of study.

14.3 Policy Making in Action

The major areas of public policy are domestic policy, economic policy, and
foreign policy (to be discussed later) as well as defense policy. Domestic
policy includes both regulatory policy and social welfare policy.

14.3a Regulatory policy

Any government exists for certain purposes, among which are the regulation
of business and commerce, laborers, transportation and communications.
Regulation involves setting restraints on individuals and groups, directly
compelling them to take, or not to take certain actions. Owing to several
abuses, the government was forced to exercise its regulatory powers. Thus,
the Congress granted over 100 million acres of land to the railroad builders,
between 1862 and 1866. However evidence of corrupt use of these lands,
and the high rates charged by the railroads, created an insistent demand for
national regulation. As a result, the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was
passed. It led to the setting up the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC),
the first independent regulatory commission to be created by the Congress
and led to an era of more positive federal regulation of business.

Campaigns for protection against adulterated foods and drugs in the 1880s resulted
in the enactment of the pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which prohibited the
interstate sale of adulterated or misbranded food and drugs. The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) was set up with control over the misbranding, false labeling
and adulteration of foods, drugs, cosmetics and therapeutic devices.

Several regulatory activities are carried out by government through
commissions. These include the fixing of fair prices for goods and services,
granting of licenses and franchises, laying down safety standards, providing
resources, and enforcing compliance with laws concerning discrimination.
These regulatory policies are competently carried out by several commissions
and agencies. These are the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),
which places limitations on the number of radio and television stations that
can be owned by a company, makes rules to govern public service and local
programming, as well as conducts reviews of station operations. The
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established to administer
the Federal Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
These require registration of all issues of stocks, bonds or other securities,
and also regulate the buying and selling of securities on exchanges in the
country. The environment is safeguarded by the EPA. The interests of
workers and customers are protected by the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC). These were directly created in response to the inability of business
concerns to safeguard their customers and workers. The National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates accidents involving civil
aircraft, determines their cause, and hears appeals relating to air safety. It
has similar authority over railroads and other surface transportation.


15.0 Introduction

In the modern American society, one confronts a political economy in which a

decision in one area affects another. This political economy could be called a
mixed economy because it is a blend of private and public enterprises,
individual initiative and government promotion, personal responsibility and
public regulation, federal and state governments. Government maintains an
orderly legal and economic system, thus helping business. By protecting
private property and enforcing contracts, it helps businessmen to operate in
a stable situation where agreements can be enforced. By promoting a
prosperous economy, the government enables businessmen to enjoy a large
volume of sales and good profits. Indeed the national government supplies a
number of specific services and helps individual sectors of business, through
its economic policy.

15.1 The Goals of Economic Policy

By using the tools of economic policy effectively, the government can do

much to enhance the living standard of all Americans. Stable prices, full
employment and economic growth are the important policy goals of the
federal government.

15.1a Stable prices

The government has the power to stabilize the economy and thus improve
and safeguard the economic status of individual Americans. Inflation occurs
when there is a sharp increase in the prices of goods and services, reducing
the value of money. Thus more money has to be spent to buy the same
goods. By keeping inflation under control, prices can be maintained at the
same level. However prices can be affected by circumstances beyond the
government’s control. For instance, a drought can create shortages, leading
to higher prices. The aim of anti-inflationary measures is to prevent money
expenditure on goods and services from rising at a faster rate than the
availability of supplies.

15.1b Full Employment

People either leave their jobs or are not able to work for several reasons.
Thus, it is not possible to achieve a state of full employment. When the
unemployment rate is four percent or less, the situation may be considered as
full employment. There are variations in the unemployment rate in different regions
and states.

15.1c Economic Growth

Economic growth is measured by means of the Gross National Product

(GNP) that is the value of goods and services produced within a year. In a
flourishing economy, the GNP growth rate may be four percent a year, while
the growth in a stagnant economy may be less than one percent. High
unemployment and low productivity characterize a stagnant economy. In
such a situation it is difficult to find jobs. A strange combination of high
unemployment and high inflation, known as stagflation. This occurred in the
U.S. during the 1970s.

The federal government also aims at achieving low or stable interest rates, a
balanced budget (or at least one with a reduced deficit from the previous
one) and a trade balance with other countries. Thus it aims at maintaining a
sound economic policy.

Participatory Policy-Making
Author: Jennifer Rietbergen-McCracken, Independent international researcher
and expert on environment and development

Participatory policy-making is more of a general approach than a specific ‘tool’,

as the overall goals, no matter which method is followed, are to facilitate the
inclusion, via consultative or participative means, of individuals or groups in the
design of policies, and to achieve accountability, transparency and active
citizenship. The push for this participatory process can be top-down (i.e. by the
government/organization initiating participatory approaches to policy-making) or
bottom-up (i.e. by particular stakeholder groups advocating a participatory
approach or seeking to influence a specific policy). There are also cases where
external bodies (notably donors) are responsible for proposing such an
approach. In this respect, it should be stressed that while governments (and
international development organizations) have a large part to play in opening
political space, creating the right conditions, and setting up the necessary
structures and processes to enable participatory policy-making, civil society
organizations (CSOs) also have an important role to play in raising awareness
about the issues at stake, helping citizens and communities organize
themselves, and advocating for more participatory policy-making.

What is it?

What is it?

The extent to which participatory policy-making involves real, meaningful

participation varies considerably from case to case, and a continuum can be
drawn up to illustrate the levels of participation achieved. One such continuum,
outlined in an FAO document (Karl, M., 2002), suggests seven different levels:

• Contribution: voluntary or other forms of input to predetermined

programmes and projects.

• Information sharing : stakeholders are informed about their rights,
responsibilities and options.
• Consultation: stakeholders are given the opportunity to interact and
provide feedback, and may express suggestions and concerns. However,
analysis and decisions are usually made by outsiders, and stakeholders
have no assurance that their input will be used.
• Cooperation and consensus building : stakeholders negotiate positions
and help determine priorities, but the process is directed by outsiders.
• Decision making : stakeholders have a role in making decisions on
policy, project design and implementation.
• Partnership: stakeholders work together as equals towards mutual goals.
• Empowerment: transfer of control over decision-making and resources to

Similarly, participatory policy-making can be limited to a one-off exercise for a

particular policy process, or can be part of a systemic participatory governance
approach by the organization/government in question including in some cases,
permanent structures such as committees that include citizens’ groups,
community members, etc. The policy itself can be a local, national or
international and the participatory element can relate to the design, monitoring,
evaluation or reform of the policy.

This write-up will focus mainly on the those approaches which have a stronger
participatory component i.e. levels four to seven of the above continuum and will
include both ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ cases. Indeed, many of the tools
mentioned can be initiated either by the ‘policy-owning’
government/organization or by the CSOs as they aim to widen the debate and,
possibly, the decision-making process.

The write-up does not cover confrontational approaches or ‘tools’ used by some
CSOs, such as litigation, boycotts, strikes and demonstrations. These
approaches have proved effective in reforming inequitable policies and
legislation such as for e.g. on land tenure and changing the way in which private
companies operate. However, they are more often used only when other
participatory approaches have failed. A few of these tools are covered
elsewhere in the CIVICUS toolkit. Furthermore, the write-up does not cover
participation of CSOs in international policy-making since the processes and
actors at transnational level are quite different from those at the national or local

level. Readers wanting more information on participation in international-level
policy-making can refer to Oberthür et al. (2002), IISD (1998) and O’Brien

The following list illustrates the kinds of tools most commonly used in
participatory policy-making: More information on these tools is available at
OECD (2001).

• Information-sharing tools: Draft policy documents or progress reports on

existing policies can be shared via traditional media such as radio,
television, newsletters etc. and electronically through websites and
emails as well as via more interactive communication like setting up an
information stall in a public space such as a library or market or
establishing a telephone information line. Information can also be shared
by teaming up with civil society organizations like citizen groups or unions
who can channel the information to their members.
• Consultation tools: These includea wide range of tools starting with
discussion forums such as round tables, public hearings, town meetings
and focus groups, electronic conferencing, surveys (in-person or
electronic) to other feedback mechanisms like for e.g. public opinion polls
or comment periods on a draft policy, and tools for more continuous
consultation such as for e.g. citizen’s panels and advisory committees of
interest group representatives.
• Active participation tools: These tools are related to levels four to seven
in the participation continuum described above and involve citizens and
communities helping to set the policy agenda, shape the dialogue and
propose policy options, although the final decision still rests with the
government. Examples of those tools most commonly used by the
‘policy-owning’ governments/organizations include ones that involve a
small number of stakeholders who are not experts on the policy issue
(e.g. consensus conferences and citizen juries), ones that include expert
publics (e.g. tripartite commissions and joint working groups), and ones
that promote broader public engagement (e.g. participatory vision and
scenario development, citizens’ forums and dialogue processes).
Wakeford (2001) outlines some of these tools including focus groups,
consensus conferencing, citizen’s juries and scenario workshops. Other
tools in this category more commonly initiated by CSOs and other

‘external’ stakeholders include campaigns, partnerships and alliances,
and policy research that is then fed into a broad dialogue process.

How is it done?

How is it done?

This section will outline one generic example of a process that could be
implemented by a government or by an international development organization
to make their policy-making more participatory, followed by a few examples of
CSO led approaches such ad campaigns, partnerships, and participatory policy

Most of the tools mentioned above are covered elsewhere in the CIVICUS
toolkit, and instead of repeating the guidance provided in these other write-ups,
this section will start with a few pointers on which tools are appropriate for
different situations of participatory policy-making.

Which tools to use when?

• Engaging directly with rural citizens and communities: Rural populations

are often disadvantaged in terms of their involvement in national level
policy-making due to their remote location, lack of communications
infrastructure, and the general tendency of governments to focus more
on the interests and concerns of their urban constituencies. Tools that
can be particularly useful in bringing the voice of rural citizens to the table
include interactive radio drama, participatory video, consultation
meetings held in the communities and many of the ‘participatory rural
appraisal’ type techniques such as community mapping, visioning,
ranking, etc. IIED’s ‘power tools’ website is an excellent source of
information and guidance on tools for enabling rural communities to help
influence natural resource policy.
• Engaging directly with urban citizen: Information sharing tools are easier
to use in urban areas as more people have access to mass media and
ICT-based communication tools like websites or blogs. Dialogue tools are
sometimes easier to apply in an urban setting as there are more
opportunities to bring together groups of people from different

backgrounds and more opportunities for people to have a voice in
matters of public interest. Tools such as town hall meetings, citizen juries
and public hearings are particularly appropriate for urban settings though
these have also been used effectively in rural village settings.
• Engaging with citizens’ representative bodies: Some tools are designed
for use where participation is focused on or channeled through
intermediary bodies such as NGOs, community groups, unions, or
organizations representing particular interest groups (such as women or
indigenous people). These include advisory committees and multi-
stakeholder dialogues, as well as longer-term approaches such as
partnerships for information sharing or consultation or advocacy
strategies developed by the interest groups themselves.

One example of a government led participatory policy-making process

The general process outlined below illustrates how a ‘policy-owning’

government or development organization could seek broad participation in the
design of a particular policy.

1. Identify the stakeholders to be involved who could include CSOs, the

private sector, community organizations, local leaders, and particular
interest groups and do an initial analysis of their interests, influence and
2. Establish some kind of working group that would include representatives
of the above stakeholder groups;
3. Organize a series of consultationand dialogue forums in order to inform a
broad range of stakeholders that may be interested or affected by the
policy in question and to elicit their feedback. These consultation and
dialogue activities may be run jointly with or delegated to some of the
representative intermediary organizations identified in step 1;
4. Design and implement a process whereby the working group can collect
and analyze information on the policy issues at stake, including direct
feedback from the activities of step 3 and other more participatory and
interactive methods as appropriate and as well as review of secondary
data, interviews with key policy-makers, etc.;
5. Arrange for a number of reporting back sessions to bring the findings of
step 4 back to the policy-makers and other decision-makers within the
government/organization, and to enable them to reflect on the

implications of these findings for the policy design;
6. Facilitate a high-level workshop to hammer out the policy options and
decide on the way forward; and
7. Devise and implement communication strategy to inform the general
public and the particular stakeholder groups about the outcomes of the
participatory process and the progress in finalizing the policy.

Examples of CSO-led tools

Three examples of tools whereby CSOs themselves can help support

participatory policy-making are campaigns, partnerships and participatory policy
research. They are outlined very briefly below:

• Campaigns: The focus of many advocacy NGOs, campaigns can serve

several functions including raising awareness among the general public
about the policy issue at hand, mobilizing action such as consumer
boycotts or citizens’ petitions, and pressurizing governments to act on the
issues and take on board the views expressed through these campaigns.
Environmental, health and rights-related issues are among the most
common subjects of such campaigns in both developed and developing
countries. A good source of case studies of policy-oriented campaigns is
available from a recent IDS study. More case studies are available in
IIED (2002) and analyses of lessons learned and tips on evidence-based
policy advocacy and citizen participation are provided in Court et al.
(2006), Hine (2008) and Clark (2003).
• Partnerships: CSOs are increasingly forming partnerships among
themselves or with government bodies or private sector companies in
order to influence policy-making at various levels. For example,
numerous NGO consortiums and networks are actively advocating
international policy reform while other NGOs are working very closely
with government to review or even help draft national policy and
legislation. The latter approach has sometimes been criticized as
compromising the independence of the NGOs concerned, although if
handled carefully, it can be a powerful means of exerting influence. For
case studies of NGOs establishing policy-oriented partnerships, see for
example Risley (2004) and Pallacio and Hurtado (2008).
• Participatory policy research: Policy research has been used by NGOs
and other stakeholder groups to promote and inform participatory policy-

making. In the most effective cases, the policy research itself has been
undertaken in a participatory manner to bring the voice of ordinary
citizens and communities to the attention of policy-makers. To have a
real impact on the policy design or reform, the research needs to involve
key policy-makers from the start and needs to be integrated into a formal
policy review process. For more information on the role of participatory
research in policy-making, see for example IIED, (1996) for many CSO-
led cases and Ehrhart, (2004) for two government-led cases.


The benefits of participatory policy making include (Veit and Wolfire 1998):

• Better informed policies: Policy making or policy reform requires diverse

and complex information and expertise. Participation usually brings a
wider range of information, ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the
process. In the case of environmental policies for example, local people,
as principal resource users and managers, often possess important
practical knowledge that helps ensure the long-term productivity of the
natural resource base. Similarly, CSOs have a wealth of information
about local needs and potential. At the same time, local researchers and
other professionals can contribute valuable research results and scientific
information to better understand the complexities of the issues at hand.
• More equitable policies: Policies that have been designed with attention
to local peoples’ needs are more likely to be equitable and fair. This is
particularly important where badly designed policies would have a
negative impact on the poor or on other disadvantaged groups.
• Strengthened transparency and accountability: The participatory process
can have wider ramifications for the ‘policy-owning’ body as it helps
create an institutional culture of openness and service. The process also
encourages greater public attention to the way in which the policy is
implemented, thus promoting accountability.
• Strengthened ownership: By involving a broader set of stakeholder
groups in the design or reform of the policy, the participatory process will
help strengthen their ownership and support for the policy and this in turn
will promote more effective implementation.
• Enhanced capacity and inclusion of marginalized groups: Where
participatory policy-making has brought neglected stakeholder groups to

the table or at least given them a voice, the process can help empower
these groups in a small way to stand up for their rights and make their
concerns known. The process can also contribute to changes in power
relations between the various constituencies involved particularly, if
special efforts have been made to include more marginalized groups.
• Enhanced government capacity: The participatory process may well have
been a new one for the government body or development organization
and can help build their capacity to recognize multiple views and address
diverging perspectives. This new experience and the practical skills
gained by those involved in implementing the process will help in future
interactions with the different stakeholder groups.
• Common understanding: Finally, participatory policy making can help
promote a common understanding around complex, misunderstood or
even contentious issues.

Challenges and lessons

The challenges and risks of participatory policy making include:

• Time and resource needs: Participatory policy making will always take
more time and can be costly, especially when large groups of
stakeholders are involved;
• Raising expectations: Asking for people’s input into the policy making
process is likely to raise their expectations of having their views taken
into account; this is not always possible and these limitations need to be
clearly spelled out from the beginning;
• Creating conflicts: The participatory process can trigger conflicts among
the different stakeholder groups, by bringing opposing views out into the
open and exposing any underlying tensions; also, if participation fails to
include some groups that feel they should have been consulted, this can
lead to conflict and opposition to the process; finally, the process can
create divisions within the NGO community if different groups take
different positions on the policy issue
• Loss of independence: By becoming closely involved with a government
led process, CSOs can risk losing (or appearing to lose) their
independence. This can have serious repercussions in terms of their
credibility; and
• Political risks: The flip side of the above risk is that, by getting involved in

policy advocacy, the CSOs can be seen by government to be interfering
in political matters and a threat to the smooth running of ‘government

Any CSO considering becoming involved in a participatory policy-making

process would need to prepare itself well in order to avoid the types of risks
mentioned above. Some suggestions in this regard are:

• Choose your battles: Not all policies need your participation and you
need to be strategic in choosing those which are of particular importance
to your cause and where you can make a real difference;
• Define your role: What are your strengths and weaknesses, what are
your capacities; how close do you want to get to the policy-making body?
• Do your homework: Develop a good understanding of the policy issue,
analyze the dynamics involved (who stands to win, who to lose, what
interests are at stake);
• Plan your participation: Which stakeholder groups do you need to
involve? Which ones need particular attention? What participatory
methods are you going to use? What is the best timing of the
participatory process, in order to maximize its impact on the policy?
• Hone your skills: Focus on the skills needed for the job like for e.g. those
required for negotiating, lobbying, communication, capacity-building, or
the use of participatory techniques.

Key Resources

Key Resources

Clark, C. (2003). Making Change Happen: Advocacy and Citizen Participation. ActionAid,
IDS and Just Associates.

A report of a workshop on this theme, that includes useful lessons learned and
recommendations for effective advocacy.

Court, J., Mendizabal, E., Osborne, D., Young, J. (2006). Policy Engagement: How civil
society can be more effective. ODI, London.

This report provides strategic and practical advice for CSOs on how they can engage more

effectively in policy processes, through evidence-based advocacy.

Ehrhart, C. (2004). Challenging and Changing the Big Picture: The roles of participatory
research in public policy planning. In PLA Notes 49, April 2004. IIED, London.

A short paper on participatory, policy-oriented research (Participatory Poverty Assessments) in

Tanzania and Uganda.

Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO):. ‘Participation’ website.

This site is a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on participatory approaches. It includes a

searchable library covering a wide range of issues and numerous case studies, and a
comprehensive section on participatory approaches and tools, in both English and French (type
‘policy’ in the search box to access those tools most relevant to participatory policy-making). It
also includes databases on organizations and other websites for further information.

Health Canada (2000). Policy Toolkit for Public Involvement in Decision-Making.

A comprehensive guide for government officials on how to engage citizens actively in policy-
making. Includes many tools, categorized by the level of participation they afford.

Hine, C. (2008). Evidence-Based Advocacy in Development Practice:Experiences from

HelpAge International in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Glocal Times 10, February
2008. Malmö University, Sweden.

This web magazine article describes examples of experiences in evidence-based advocacy from
Help Age’s programmes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and suggests some key ingredients
for successful evidence-based advocacy.

Holmes, T. and Scoones, I. (2001). Participatory environmental policy processes:

experiences from North and South. In PLA Notes 40. IIED, London.

An abridged version of a longer paper, including an annotated listing of cases from both
developed and developing countries.

International Development Resource Centre: Participatory policy-making in Nepal

A web article on the participatory development of a national policy for the information technology

sector in Nepal.

Institute of Development Studies: Participation and National Policy

A web portal with eight downloadable case studies from a research project that ran from 2004 to
2007, looking at how citizen engagement with the state can contribute to pro-poor national

International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED): ‘Power Tools’

An excellent source of information and guidance on tools for enabling rural communities to help
influence natural resource policy. The site includes clear and concise ‘how-to’ advice on 26
tools, available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

IIED (2002). PLA Notes 43. Advocacy and Citizen Participation.

An issue of IIED’s ‘Participatory Learning and Action’ Notes (an informal journal on participatory
techniques and approaches) focusing on the use of advocacy approaches by civil society

IIED (2001). PLA Notes 40. Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment.

This issue of PLA Notes is dedicated to techniques that engage the public in policy formulation,
and includes both case studies from around the world and more critical and analytical pieces.

IIED (1996). PLA Notes 27. Participation, Policy and Institutionalisation. October 1996.
IIED, London.

This issue of PLA Notes includes a special section that looks at how PRA can be used to
influence policy and how participatory approaches can become part of an organisation’s culture.
Articles are drawn from three workshops on these themes.

International Intsitute for Sustainable Development (1998). Participatory Policy-making.

Developing Ideas Digest Idea 3.

A brief discussion of CSO participation in United Nations conferences and processes.

Karl, M. (2002). Participatory Policy Reform from a Sustainable Livelihoods Perspective:

Review of concepts and practical experiences. LSP Working Paper 3, Participation, Policy

and Local Governance Sub-Programme. FAO, Rome.

A review of how a sustainable livelihoods approach can be helpful in developing participatory

policy-making, this document also includes numerous cases with lessons learned.

Oberthür, S, Buck, M., Müller, S., Pfahl, S., Tarasofsky, R.G. (2002). Participation of Non-
Governmental Organisations in International Environmental Co-operation: Legal Basis
and Practical Experience. Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co, Berlin.

The book "Participation of Non-Governmental Organisations in International Environmental Co-

operation" analyses the importance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the
relationship between the legal basis and the practical influence of NGOs in different areas of
international environmental governance.

O’Brien, R. (2001). Enabling civil society participation in global policy-making: The APC
and the United Nations. Association for Progressive Communications.

A short web article on the use of Internet and Communication Technology to assist CSO
participation in global policy-making.

OECD (2001). Citizens as Partners: OECD handbook on information, consultation and

public participation in policy-making. OECD, Paris.

A practitioner’s guide designed for use by government officials in informing, consulting and
engaging citizens during policy-making. It also includes a user-friendly section on tools and
practical tips on how to use them.

O’Ryan, R. and del Valle, A. (1996). Managing Air Quality in Santiago: What needs to be
done? Estudios de Economia No. 23, August 1996.

A paper proposing solutions to Santiago’s air quality problem, with a brief mention of a
participatory process undertaken to develop possible policy options.

Pallacio , D.C. and Hurtado, R. (2008). Social-Networks to Defend Bogota’s Wetlands: A

participatory policy building effort for urban protected areas. Ecocity World summit 2008

A case study of how joint action by residents’ associations helped create a participatory

conservation policy in Bogota, Colombia.

Risley, A. (2004). Citizen Participation in Policy Making: Comparative Perspectives on

Civil Society Networks and Coalitions.” American Political Science Association annual
meeting, Chicago, September 2004.

A review of civil society alliances to influence policy in Latin America, focusing on the joining
together of NGOs advocating childrens’ rights in Argentina and Chile.

Robb, C.M. (2002). Can the Poor Influence Policy? Participatory Poverty Assessments in
the Developing World (Second Edition). IMF and World Bank, Washington, D.C.

As well as providing a status report on the use of Participatory Poverty Assessments (PPAs)
and their impact on poverty reduction strategies, this report also provides methodological
guidance based on best practice examples.

Schnell, S., Poulsen, P., Condy, A., Tertsunen, M. and Holland, J. (2006). Principles for
PSIA Process in Policy Cycles and Stakeholder Participation. GTZ and DFID.

Although this document focuses on the use of Poverty and Social Impact Analyses (PSIA) to
inform and enable participatory policy-making, it includes practical guidance of more general
relevance for those groups responsible for commissioning, implementing and facilitating such
participatory policy-making.

SDD (2006). PPA Evaluation and Recommendations for the Poverty Monitoring System in
Tanzania: Final Report. Social Development Direct, London.

An evaluation report of the Tanzania Participatory Poverty Assessment, with some information
on the methods used and comments on the achievements of the participatory research.

Tanner, C. (2002). Law-Making in an African Context: the 1997 Mozambican Land Law.
FAO Legal Papers Online No. 26, March 2002.

A detailed paper on the development of Mozambique’s land law, with a mention of the
consultative and participatory process.

Wakeford, T. (2001). A selection of methods used in deliberative and inclusionary



A brief summary of some of the participatory policy-making tools mentioned in this write-up, with
links to cases studies that are included in PLA Notes 40 – an issue dedicated to techniques that
engage the public in policy formulation (see IIED, 2001).

Case Studies

Case studies

Participatory research to influence poverty reduction policy in Tanzania

A Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) led by the government was
conducted in Tanzania during 2002-2003 as part of a national level poverty
monitoring system. The PPA methodology was developed by the World Bank as
a means of informing poverty reduction strategies and ensuring that these
strategies reflect the priority needs of poor people.The Tanzania PPA focused
on exploring the causes, consequences, and policy implications of ‘vulnerability’
and involved field research in 30 sites across the country, selected on the basis
of representing different livelihood conditions. Research teams were made up of
six people from local and central government, as well as national and
international civil society organizations, and they lived for up to three weeks in
each site. The participatory research methods used included typical
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools such as focus group discussions with
different social groups (e.g. children or people living with HIV/AIDS), community
mapping, transect walks, and preference ranking. Through these techniques,
the researchers sought to learn about the range of conditions people face, as
well as their concerns, competing priorities, success stories etc.

The findings of the PPA and the policy implications were produced in English
and Swahili and presented at a ‘poverty policy week’ that helped to shape the
government’s poverty reduction policy reforms, particularly on issues such as
the proportion of district revenue retained by wards and the burdensome
multiple local taxes. For more information on this case, see Ehrhart (2004) and
SDD (2006) under Key resources.

An ICT approach to participatory policy-making in Nepal
The government of Nepal chose to adopt a participatory approach to the
development of a national policy for the country’s information technology (IT)
sector. The year-long policy design process during 1999-2000 started with a
series of informal consultations with members of the IT industry by the high-
level government official responsible for the policy. The consultations helped
them to learn about the sector, gauge important concerns and map key issues.
This led to the formation of a Steering Committee composed of members from
the government, private sector, and non-governmental research institutes. The
Steering Committee commissioned six strategy papers from multi-stakeholder
consultative groups. These papers were then published on an internet website
for public review and comment.

Government officials responsible for drafting the policy began to study the
papers and to consider policy options which responded to the recommendations
made in the six papers. This led to the preparation and circulation of a draft of
the policy. At the same time, a National Stakeholders Workshop was held in
Kathmandu to discuss the strategy papers, the draft policy, and the role of
information technologies in the development of Nepal. The meeting was
attended by about 150 people representing a diversity of groups concerned with
the new technologies. They ranged from gender specialists and development
workers to Internet service providers and journalists. The workshop along with
the collection of comments received via e-mails responding to the six strategy
papers published on the Internet, generated valuable inputs into finalization of
the IT policy which was approved by the government in October 2000.

Participatory development of a land policy in Mozambique

A three-year participatory process led by the government of Mozambique with
technical assistance from FAO, was initiated in 1994 to develop a new land
policy that would form the basis of a new land law for the country. The process
included participation from government, academia, civil society organizations
and representatives of farmers’ cooperatives. The methods used included
consultations with stakeholders at local and regional levels, a series of
seminars, and opportunities for stakeholders to submit reports and comments. A
National Land Conference with multi-stakeholder participation was also held. In
addition to these government-initiated tools, the Campanha Terra (Land
Campaign), a strong civil society movement that included a coalition of 150 civil

rights organizations, farmers’ associations, women’s movements, church
groups, trade unions, and academics, stimulated civil society participation
through other means such as: direct action, including a march on parliament led
by farmers;information dissemination using a wide variety of media including
seminars, farmers’ workshops, posters, pamphlets, comic books, theatre, radio,
audio cassettes and video; and NGO led debate in rural communities and
channeling of feedback to the Inter-Ministerial Land Commission. The process
resulted in a new land policy that was formulated in 1995, followed by a new
land law that went into effect in 1997.

Participatory development of air quality policy in Chile

An independent research institute in Chile’s Santiago, led a participatory
process to develop policy options for dealing with air quality problems in the city.
The five-year process that started in 1990 aimed to develop a plan that would
be operational and legitimate and a one that elicits the commitment of both the
government and the residents of the city. The process involved representatives
of government, NGOs, citizens, and university researchers. The participatory
methods used included action mapping (where stakeholders develop their
action-oriented visions of the future) and a series of workshops where elements
of the plan were formulated by multi-stakeholder groups. In the end, about half
of the instruments included in the plan came from citizens’ groups. A follow-up
conference was organized to provide feedback on the outcome of the
participatory process and to promote the plan.

Policy and Planning


Policy making and planning are core elements of public governance. A public policy
is a deliberate and carefully studied decision that provides guidance for addressing
selected public concerns. Policy making is 'the process by which governments
translate their political vision into programmes and actions to deliver 'outcomes', in
other words, the desired changes in the real world. Examples of “desired outcomes”
include clean air, clean water, good health, high employment, an innovative
economy, active trade, high educational attainment, decent and affordable housing,
minimal levels of poverty, improved literacy, low crime and a socially cohesive
society, to name a few. Policy also provides the framework and sets the parameters
for planning. The purpose of public planning is to outline how policies will be
implemented in practice.

Promoting citizen participation in policy making and planning is therefore

fundamental to democracy and the delivery of quality outcomes for citizens. It also
contributes to the development of effective, strong and inclusive public institutions.
The tools in this category cover a broad range of approaches and methods aimed at
strengthening citizen participation, as well as the active involvement of actors such
as local government officials and parliamentarians, in policy-making and planning

Tools in the Policy and Planning Category

Policy and Planning category includes eight tools. They are:

• Participatory Policy-making is more of a general approach than a specific

‘tool’, as the overall goal, no matter which method is followed, is to facilitate
the inclusion of individuals or groups in the design of policies via consultative
or participative means and to achieve accountability, transparency and active
• Participatory Development Planning is also more of a general approach
than a tool per se. The core aims of participatory development planning are to
give people a say in the development decisions that may affect them and to

ensure that development interventions are appropriate to the needs and
preferences of the population that they are intended to benefit.
• Future Search is a participatory methodology that can be used in the context
of both policy making and planning processes. Future Search facilitates
discovering common ground amongst people from all walks of life, through a
dialogue (that often takes place over several days) where participants share
stories about their past and present and generate ideas and plans for the
desired future.
• Joint Policy Making Committees/Boards are mechanisms driven by
principles of inclusion and partnership that seek to take policy making beyond
institutional boundaries. Such bodies not only enrich policy making with cross-
sectoral knowledge but also bring the policy making process close to people.
Joint Policy Making Committees typically involve representation from the
legislature, multiple government agencies, domain experts and civil society
organizations or citizen movements.
• Educating/Supporting Parliamentarians is more of a generic approach than
a specific tool, aimed at strengthening the capacity of parliaments/
parliamentarians to effectively contribute to, and promote public participation
in, processes of policy making, planning, budgeting, expenditure tracking,
monitoring of public programmes and services, etc.
• Participatory Social Impact Analysis is a mixed-methods technique for
examining the various positive and negative effects of policy reforms. The
goal of Social Impact Analysis is to determine the likely winners and losers
from the direct and indirect effects of a given policy reform. It looks at three
aspects: the impact of policies on people; the impacts of stakeholders on the
reform; and how people respond to the opportunities that policy actions
• Policy Audits are participatory tools to evaluate the efficiency and
effectiveness of both the policy interventions and their implementation i.e. to
ascertain whether a given policy has actually achieved its intended goals and
objectives with in the set time frame and resource allocation.
• Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) is an organized way of
collecting, analyzing, and verifying information at the local/community level. It
can be used by local governments, national government agencies, civil
society organizations and community groups for purposes of policy-making,
planning, budgeting, and implementing and monitoring local development


• Better informed policies and development plans: Policy making and planning
require diverse and complex information and expertise based on evidence
from the ground. Widening the space for policy dialogue and citizen
participation in policy making and planning brings a wider range of
information, ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the process.
• More inclusive and equitable policies and development plans: Multi-
stakeholder representation and citizen participation help to produce polices
that are in tune with people’s needs and therefore tend to be more equitable
and inclusive.
• Strengthened transparency and accountability: The participatory process can
have wider ramifications for the ‘policy/plan-owning’ body as it helps create an
institutional culture of openness and public service orientation. The process
also encourages greater public attention to the way in which the policy is
implemented, thus promoting accountability.
• Strengthened ownership: By involving a broader set of stakeholder groups in
the design or reform of policies and plans, the participatory process helps
strengthen their ownership and support for the policy and this in turn will
promote more effective implementation and uptake.
• Enhanced capacity and inclusion of marginalized groups: Where participatory
policy making/planning has brought neglected stakeholder groups to the table,
or at least given them a voice, the process can help empower these groups to
stand up for their rights and make their concerns known. The process can
also contribute to changes in power relations between the various
constituencies involved.
• Enhanced capacity of local governments and parliaments: Participatory
processes combined with a focus on capacity development can help build the
capacity of governments at all levels, and particularly local governments and
legislatures, to recognize multiple views and address diverging perspectives.
This new experience and the practical skills gained by those involved in the
process will help in future interactions with different stakeholder groups.
• Common understanding: Finally, participatory policy making and planning can
help nurture a common understanding of complex, misunderstood or even
contentious issues.

Challenges and Lessons

• Time and resource needs: Participatory policy making/planning will always

take more time and can be costly, especially when large groups of
stakeholders with diverse interests are involved.
• Raising expectations: Soliciting inputs from multiple stakeholders into the
policy making and planning process is likely to raise their expectations of
having their views taken into account; this is not always possible and these
limitations need to be clearly spelled out from the beginning.
• Creating conflicts: Participatory approaches to policy-making and planning
can bring to the surface conflicts among different stakeholder groups, by
bringing opposing views out into the open and exposing any underlying
tensions. Also, if participation fails to include some groups that feel they
should have been consulted, this can lead to conflict and opposition to the
process. Finally, the process can exacerbate divisions within the CSO
community if different groups take different positions on the policy issue.
• Loss of autonomy: By aligning closely with a government driven process,
CSOs can risk losing (or appearing to lose) their independence. This can
have serious repercussions in terms of their credibility.
• Political risks: The flip side of the above risk is that, by getting involved in
policy formulation and advocacy, CSOs can be seen by public officials to be
interfering in “government matters”.

Key Resources

Court, J., Mendizabal, E., Osborne, D., Young, J. (2006). Policy Engagement: How civil society
can be more effective. ODI, London.

This report provides strategic and practical advice for CSOs on how
they can engage more effectively in policy processes, through evidence-based advocacy.

Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO):. ‘Participation’ website.

This site is a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on participatory approaches. It includes a searchable
library covering a wide range of issues and numerous case studies, and a comprehensive section on
participatory approaches and tools, in both English and French. It also includes databases on
organizations and other websites for further information. (Type ‘policy’ in the search box to access
those tools most relevant to participatory policy-making).

Future Search Network

Future Search Network is a collaboration of hundreds of dedicated volunteers worldwide providing

future search conferences as a public service. The Network serves communities, NGO's, and other
non-profits for whatever people can afford.

Parliamentary Centre

The Parliamentary Centre is a Canadian not-for-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to improving

the effectiveness of representative assemblies around the world. The Parliamentary Centre in
cooperation with the World Bank Institute is developing tools to measure parliamentary performance.

Poverty and Social Impact Analysis Unit - The World Bank.,,menuPK:490139

The Poverty and Social Impact Analysis website of the World Bank draws on activities from other
departments in the World Bank, particularly the development and presentation of a number of relevant
social and economic tools by the Development Research Group. Country examples are mostly drawn
from the activities of Regional divisions.

Reye, C and Due, E. in_focus: Fighting Poverty with Facts: Community-Based Monitoring
Systems. IDRC (2009)

This publication and corresponding website of the Canadian

International Development Research Centre is the single most exhaustive resource on Community-
Based Monitoring Systems.

World Bank Institute: Parliamentary Strengthening Programme

WBI’s Parliamentary Strengthening Program has developed a series of thirteen learning modules for
parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. The main objectives of these learning modules are to
strengthen the capacity of parliaments to oversee the allocation and use of public funds, reduce
poverty, improve public participation in the policy process, and reduce corruption, among others.