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Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions - and ideally exert influence - regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. Participatory decision making can take place along any realm of human social activity, including economic (i.e. participatory economics), political (i.e. participatory democracy or parpolity), management (i.e. participatory management), cultural (i.e. intercommunalism) or familial (i.e. feminism).

For well-informed participation to occur, it is argued that some version of transparency, e.g. radical transparency, is necessary, but not sufficient. It has also been argued that those most affected by a decision should have the most say while those least affected would have the least say.


Objectives of participation

Participation activities may be motivated from an administrative perspective or a citizen perspective. From the administrative viewpoint, participation can build public support for activities. It can educate the public about an agency's activities. It can also facilitate useful information exchange regarding local conditions. Furthermore, participation is often legally mandated. From the citizen viewpoint, participation enables individuals and groups to influence agency decisions in a representational manner.[1]

Classifying participation

Sherry Arnstein discusses eight types of participation in A Ladder of Citizen Participation (1969). These are broadly categorized as Nonparticipation, Tokenism, and Citizen Power. She defines citizen participation as the redistribution of power that enables the havenot citizens, presently excluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future.[2]

Archon Fung presents another classification of participation based on three key questions: Who is allowed to participate, and are they representative of the population? What is the method of communication or decision-making? And how much influence or authority is granted to the participation?[3]

Multiple other "ladders" of participation have been presented, most notably Connor's "A new ladder of citizen participation" (1988), Wiedemann and Femers' "Public Participation in waste management decision making: analysis and management of conflicts" (1993) and Dorcey et al. "Public Involvement in government decision making: choosing the right model" (1994) and Rocha's "A Ladder of Empowerment" (1997).

Specific participation activities

See also


  1. ^ Glass, James. "Citizen Participation in Planning: The Relationship between Objectives and Techniques." Journal of the American Planning Association 45, no. 2 (1979): 180-189.
  2. ^ Arnstein, Sherry. "A Ladder of Citizen Participation." Journal of the American Institute of Planners 35, no. 4 (1969): 216-224.
  3. ^ Fung, Archon. "Varieties of Participation in Complex Governance." Public Administration Review 66, (2006): 66-75.

External links

  • [1] Reed MS (2008) Stakeholder participation for environmental management: a literature review. Biological Conservation 141: 2417–2431 (for final published version see:
  • Participatory Economics Book Page (Participatory Decision Making)
  • "Future in the Alps" Database with best practice examples of new forms of decision making in the Alps
  • "Participatory Learning and Action series" A leading informal journal on participatory learning and action approaches and methods, providing a forum for those engaged in participatory work - community workers, activists and researchers - to share their experiences, conceptual reflections and methodological innovations with others.
  • "Participation and the FAO" The Participation Website was established in 1999 by the Informal Working Group on Participatory Approaches and Methods to Support Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security (IWG-PA) from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The objective of the Participation Website is to bring together under one virtual roof, a broad cross-section of stakeholders interested in participatory approaches and methods in support of sustainable rural livelihoods and food security.


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