Climbing The Mountain Of Citizen Participation
What is it?
Citizen participation refers to the process during which citizens are given the opportunity to participate in the public decision-making process.
Five Steps To Effective Citizen Participation
Starting at the lowest rung of the ladder, raising awareness is the beginning of your citizen participation process. You will be informing the public of news, updates and any other undertakings that are happening that may affect them. You are not putting the people under any obligation to get involved during this step. It is merely an eye-opening exercise. By pushing information out through social media, news channels and leaflet drops, you are getting the ball rolling and as yet, this step is a one-way relationship, with you putting in the work.
This is where we begin to build bridges. The Government body will need to reach out to the now-informed public and ask them for feedback. It can’t be as unimaginative as “What do you think?” however, you will need to mine deeper. Constructing detail orientated surveys to truly understand the specifics of what you want to know will save time and stress.
The consulting stage is also where the public can put a face to the information, holding public meetings, focus groups and going door to door, shows that you value the information you are gathering.
This is the hardest part of any citizen participation initiative. People will be quick to declare support of something but it will not be as easy to get them actively involved. Getting citizens to take a seat on a board or become an advocate requires a lot more effort on behalf of the Government or project organizer. We live in a society where time is our most valued asset and so, we need to provide incentives for people to give it up.
Emotional appeals are used consistently when recruiting ordinary citizens to top level board positions, showing people the benefits if they join and maybe the repercussions if they don’t.
Hello, Teamwork! At this stage of participation, the power is shared between the government and the public as if they were partners. Here is where we expect to see solutions which are mutually beneficial to both sides. The planning and decision-making are acted upon together in order to take into account both opinions and advice to come to a final decision. Here we also need to see a shift in focus on citizens to focus on Government. The people in authority need to be able to adapt and take greater account of their role within the community. Tailor-made approaches are what the collaboration phase should produce.
The final stage of citizen participation is when the citizen has the dominant decision over the government. Citizens have the veto right. Therefore, the government will have to implement the decision of the citizens.
Ultimately, good governance requires a certain degree of transparency and accountability. These factors can only exist with significant citizen participation. The big challenge now is to brush off this political naivety that we need a certain group to decide laws and lead us. Direct participation is the best participation.
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