Managing participation – including more marginalized voices

Public engagement is now a central element in policy-making.
Over the past few years a number of reviewers have pointed to the need for us to get more accurate about our use of the word participation. Similarly we need to look not only at how well citizens and other stakeholders engage, but on the capacity that government and other agencies have to support the engagement of citizens and other stakeholder groups. There is growing evidence that we need to replace recipe-based approaches – which emphasize selecting the relevant tools for the job – with an approach that emphasizes participation as a process. The latter also implies the need to pay more attention to ensuring that processes are managed by those with well-developed skills in relationship-building, facilitation and conflict management.

The inclusion of more marginalized groups in these more  multi-stakeholder processes remains a constant challenge for those tasked with managing these processes. It raises questions about how to include all stakeholders in the process in a way that empowers marginalized stakeholder groups, and at the same time is acceptable for the dominant stakeholder groups. The links below cover a range of different social contexts – from organizational change to community development.

Stakeholder Participation for Environmental Management: A Literature Review
This 2008 paper by Mark Reed points to the need to focus on participation as a process. It then identifies a number of best practice features from the literature. Finally, it argues that to overcome many of its limitations, stakeholder participation must be institutionalised, creating organisational cultures that can facilitate processes where goals are negotiated and outcomes are necessarily uncertain. The paper acknowledges that seen in this light, participatory processes may seem very risky, but there is growing evidence that if well designed, these perceived risks may be well worth taking.

Community participation: Who benefits?
This report by Paul Skidmore, Kirsten Bound and Hannah Lownsbrough explores whether policies to involve people in making decisions about their own communities are effective in building strong social networks. Through detailed case studies in two areas, and a review of other research, the authors investigate the key factors influencing participation in governance. They argue that community participation tends to be dominated by a small group of people and suggest ways in which formal participation arrangements could more effectively engage with informal everyday social networks.

Dare we jump off Arnstein’s ladder? Social learning as a new policy paradigm
This conference paper by Kevin Collins and Ray Ison acknowledges that participation is now a central consideration of policy discourses at EU; national and local levels, particularly in relation to environmental resources. As it becomes a social expectation so the form, meaning and purpose of participation has diversified. While Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation (Arnstein, 1969) revealed that much ‘participation’ does little to broker a reassignment of power, this paper argues that it is perhaps time to jump off the ladder. In doing so, the authors’ suggest that an emphasis on social learning constitutes a paradigm shift in the thinking and practices of policy-making.

Using participatory and learning-based approaches for environmental management to help achieve constructive behaviour change
This report from Will Allen, Margaret Kilvington, and Chrys Horn looks at how agencies can influence people’s behaviour to improve environmental management. It highlights new approaches that work with multi-stakeholder groups and teams, in particular those which improve motivation, information flows, and collaborative learning. The report covers four main areas: i) a review of contemporary approaches to environmental policy making; ii) a review of frameworks for supporting behaviour change; iii) providing an outline of the key concepts for managing participation in practice; and iv) a description of techniques for building group capacity for environmental change.

Public participation and climate change adaptation: Avoiding the illusion of inclusion
This 2007 working paper by Roger Few, Katrina Brown and Emma L. Tompkins acknowledges that public participation is an important normative goal in formulating response to climate change risks, but argue that its practice must be sensitive to existing critiques of participatory processes from other contexts. Involving a wide range of stakeholders in decision-making presents fundamental challenges for climate policy, many of which are embedded in relations of power. They remind us that without due consideration of these issues, a tension between principles of public participation and anticipatory adaptation is likely to emerge and may result in an overly-managed form of inclusion that is unlikely to satisfy either participatory or instrumental goals.

Understanding participatory research in the context of natural resource management – paradigms, approaches and typologies.
This paper has been written by Kirsten Probst and Jürgen Hagmann, with contributions from Maria Fernandez and Jacqueline Ashby. It points out that in the field of natural resource management (NRM), which emerged as a new integration domain in the agricultural sciences, participatory research is conceptually and operationally still in its infancy and a range of activities are labeled”participatory research”. The paper aims at shedding some light on this confusion. Based on a review of literature and internet sites, it provides an overview of the CGIAR’s current NRM research practice, analysing the impact orientation, research foci, the pathway/strategy to impact and the role of participatory research. The paper also offers a framework which helps to differentiate approaches to innovation development and to “unpack” the blurred concept of “participatory research”.

Climate change policy: the ‘joined-up community’ approach
The paper by by Janette Hartz-Karp points out the real problems of involving citizens in policy development. She shows the need for deliberative democracy that combines three basic tenets: ‘Representation and Inclusion’, ‘Deliberation’and ‘Influence’. Finally she talks about examples where these are happening in Western Australia.

Unpacking “participation” in the adaptive management of social-ecological Systems: a critical review
Adaptive management has the potential to make environmental management more democratic through the involvement of different stakeholders. In this article, Lindsay Stringer and colleagues examine three case studies at different scales that followed adaptive management processes, critically reflecting upon the role of stakeholder participation in each case. Specifically, they examine at which stages different types of stakeholders can play key roles and the ways that each might be involved. They show that a range of participatory mechanisms can be employed at different stages of the adaptive cycle, and can work together to create conditions for social learning and favorable outcomes for diverse stakeholders. This analysis highlights the need for greater reflection on case study research in order to further refine participatory processes within adaptive management. This should not only address the shortcomings and successes of adaptive management as a form of democratic environmental governance, but should also unpack the links between science, institutions, knowledge, and power.

Active Partners: Benchmarking Community Participation in Regeneration
If community participation is key to success, it needs to happen across the range of public spending, and it needs to be measured. Yet there are few efforts that measure whether community participation actually takes place or to what degree. Too often, communities have been consulted, but not given the chance to actively participate. They have been involved in detail, but not in strategy.This UK-based report prepared by Yorkshire Forward offers twelve benchmarks for communities and public policy makers to assess the extent to which community participation is taking place. It offers a tool kit for analysing weaknesses, suggestions for best practice and a framework for improvement. Community participation has no finishing line. Active Partners will encourage the best to do better, and the worst to reach the standards that will bring success.

People & Participation
People & Participation is Involve’s first publication, launched in 2005. Its starting point is that deepening and strengthening democracy depends on success in learning lessons about why some kinds of participation lead to better and more legitimate decisions, while others do not. The book shows that greater public involvement can greatly help in addressing some of our most pressing problems, and countering the risks of distrust and alienation. But it also warns that too much participation today is superficial, an exercise in ticking boxes as opposed to good democratic governance, or using public consultation to justify decisions that have already been made. Other Involve publications also provide useful information in this area.

Good practice guidelines for working with tangata whenua and Māori organisations: Consolidating our learning
These good practice guidelines from Garth Harmsworth are based on many years of learning by central and local government, crown research institutes, and Māori groups, using case studies, reports, papers, unpublished documents and personal communications. The information was summarised and collated to provide a record of what we have learnt about developing relationships between Māori groups and Crown agencies and the ways we measure that engagement performance from different perspectives – Māori and non-Māori.

Further reading on this topic can also be gained by the pages on behaviour change – guides to approaches and theories and guides to help initiate and manage social processes. The page on risk communication and engagement is also closely related. Another page looks at  building networks for learning outlining the management of different engagement approaches including partnerships, team building, communities of practice and learning groups. Other related pages cover topics such as stakeholder mapping and analysis, governance and participatory action research.

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