‘Public participation’ can be defined as involving those affected by decision-making processes. It provides citizens with the opportunities they need to be involved in a meaningful way. Effective public participation allows the public’s opinions and values to be understood and integrated into decisions that affect them.
Some of the principles of public participation include inclusiveness, diversity, transparency, flexibility (to allow room for change for the benefit of the participatory process), accessibility (both physical and mental). And finally another element crucial to the overall success of public participation is the integration of the process into the final outcomes. Participatory processes use tools and techniques that are common to a number of dispute resolution and communications fields.
When delivered effectively participation can facilitate cooperation, ownership and trust, themselves concrete results of participation. Processes that encourage collective ownership restore and reinforce relationships among different parts of the community that otherwise would seldom come into contact with each other.
As a result outcomes will be more sustainable and mutually beneficial for the whole community. This in turn creates increased confidence and greater capacity to respond locally to challenges, leading to resilient communities capable of self-organising.
Participatory approaches require those leading the process to have a fundamental belief in the value of engaging and empowering citizens to identify local solutions to local issues. There are different levels of participation from the most basic level of information sharing up to community ownership and participatory democracy, each of which require skilled facilitators with the capacity to deliver appropriate approaches and mechanisms of participatory processes in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
ASC uses a range of participatory process in our work including World Cafe, Open Space, Appreciative Enquiry, Dynamic Facilitation.
Social Capital World Forum: ASC and the Büro für Zukunftsfragen are co-founders of the Social Capital World Forum, which brings together organisations (civil society, NGOs, social enterprises, academic, statutory sector, etc) working at a regional/national level with social capital as a key resource for enhancing community well-being and resilience.