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The A-Z of Effective Participation

Section L-R here....A-D | E-K | S-Z |

Launch
Leadership
Leaflets and newsletters
Levels of participation
Limits
Listening
Management committee
Media
Meetings
Methods for participation
Mind Maps
Minutes
Mission
Mistakes
Monitoring and evaluation
Muddle
Negotiation
Networking
Nominal Group Technique
Options
Outcomes
Ownership
Parish maps
Participation
Partnership
Past and Future

Phases of participation
Plan, act, review
Planning for Real
Politicians
Post-it notes
Power
Practitioner
Preparation
Presentations
Press Releases
Principles of participation
Print
Priority Search
Problem clarification
Problems
Process as a journey
Public meeting
Publicity
Purpose
Recruitment
Research
Resources
Role of the practitioner
Roles and responsibilities in groups
Roles of participants


Launch

A launch is the point at which you formally announce or celebrate a process or project. As such a launch event can come at the beginning - during the Preparation or Participation phase - or later during Continuation. The launch can be useful both externally and also within an organisation:

  • It provides a formal start line if used at the beginning, when you can outline the overall process and your stance .
  • It is a good time to attract media coverage.
  • It is an opportunity for social contacts.
  • It is a deadline for making decisions and preparing materials.

See also Communication, Identity and Image, Time Line.

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Leadership

To lead the people, walk behind them. Lao-Tzu

As a reaction against the stereotype of the autocratic leader, it is fashionable in some management development circles to suggest that everyone can be a leader - that is, everyone can try and fulfil their purpose in life, and help others do the same. That may not be how most people see the issue of leadership, but it can be another helpful way of looking at issues of confidence, capacity, empowerment and enabling. Sandy Adirondack, in Just About Managing, suggests it is helpful to think about the different management strengths needed within a group or organisation: the equivalent, perhaps, of leadership styles. She identifies, co-ordinator, shaper, innovator, evaluator, liaison, organiser, team builder, finisher, specialist.

Leadership audit

Middlesbrough Borough Council uses a 'leadership audit' in community development work with 100 questions for members of groups or organisations. Participants choose statements which they feel are broadly true from a list which includes, for example:
Everyone is usually involved in decisions affecting them.
Morale is high.
New ideas and suggestions are welcomed.
We feel we can have influence on decisions.

The scores are analysed against the following attributes: vision, prioritising, motivation, interpersonal skills, political sensitivity, resilience, charisma, risk taking, flexibility, decisiveness.

The audit pack then suggests ways of correcting weaknesses.

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Leaflets and newsletters

Some simple form of printed material will almost certainly be necessary in a participation process - but will not be enough alone to gain people's involvement. There is no substitute for knocking on doors or networking. If the participation process is lengthy, it may be worth considering a regular newsletter or bulletin to report back on surveys, meetings and other activities.

See also Communication, Print.

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Levels of participation

Levels of participation are the different degrees of involvement offered to others by whoever is starting or managing a participation process.

The levels used in this guide are Information, Consultation, Deciding Together, Acting Together, and Supporting Independent Community Initiatives. Methods for tackling problems and making progress are listed under each one. No one level is necessarily better than another - each may be appropriate in different circumstances. However they do represent different balances of control between the different interests. Empowerment may be seen as helping people reach the higher levels - provided that is what they want to do.

See also items on each level, and the section
Where do you stand?

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Limits

Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do. Lin Yutang.

There's only so much any participation or capacity-building process can achieve, and it is important to agree what is realistic early in the process. People are more likely to accept limitations, if they are put openly and honestly, than disappointments later. That approach offers the different interests an opportunity to decide whether to get involved, or take some other action.

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Listening

One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears. Dean Rusk

Listening is important at all stages of the participation process:

  • To find out what people's interests are.
  • To learn the language they use.
  • To understand what role you can most usefully play.
  • To find what people think of what is happening.

See also Communication.

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Management committee

The governing body for a project or organisation, to which staff are accountable. In a company the management committee is the Board of directors. If the organisation is a charity the members of the management committee will be trustees. In appointing management committees it is important to strike a balance between representation and competence. Little will be achieved if everyone on the committee has to learn how to manage an organisation. At the same time, a committee which has no representation of key interests may well find itself in difficulty.

See also Committees and the book Just about managing? for detailed advice on management committees.

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Media

News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising. Lord Northcliffe.

The media is mainly in the business of interesting and entertaining its users, and of selling itself or advertising. It is not there as a public service to promote your ideas or project. There are, of course, exceptions: public service announcements, community programmes, specialist publications, and the newsletters of local organisations. Parish magazines and what's on guides can be useful.

However, if you are seeking space in newspapers, on local radio or television, you will generally have to think news or features. Journalists judge what is news against 'news values' which vary between papers and stations, but generally include:

  • Conflict (where's the row).
  • Hardship (how many hurt, who is in danger).
  • Oddity (that's unusual).
  • Scandal (sex, corruption).
  • Individuality (what an interesting person).
  • Disclosure (we can reveal).

Local journalists have a more relaxed view than Lord Northcliffe, but you do need to consider what's in the story for them (and the editorial executive who will decide whether it goes in the paper).

Features writers may be less concerned with disclosure or scandal, but still need an interesting story to tell. Would your story be worth telling to a friend outside the project? If not, why should readers or viewers be interested?

Media checklist

In dealing with journalists:

  • Consider why you want coverage - for example, to publicise an event, get enquiries, show supporters or funders what you are achieving.
  • If possible identify a reporter covering your field, or link your story to other current events.
  • Try and turn your story into an opportunity for pictures: essential for television, likely to get you more space in newspapers.
  • Prepare a press release and expect to deal with newspaper reporters on the telephone. However, stay in touch with anyone you deal with and try to meet at some stage. Personal contacts generally produce more sympathetic stories, and are invaluable if you later face a difficult situation which could lead to adverse coverage.

See also Press releases.

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Meetings

Meetings are at the heart of participation processes, whether social get-togethers, committees , workshops, or public meetings. See the item on Access, and the points below.

Meetings checklist

For effective meetings, consider:

  • The style of the meeting. If it is to be a creative workshop rather than a committee, make sure people know that in advance.
  • An accessible venue (public transport, disabled access).
  • Child care (crèche, financial assistance).
  • What information and notice is appropriate beforehand. In general, provide papers with options for formal meetings, but only an outline of the aims for a workshop so that people are spontaneous.
  • Any aids you will need: charts, projectors etc.
  • The layout of the room, and scope for breaking into small groups. Avoid a platform and lecture-style seating if possible.
  • Good management of the meeting itself : see committees, public meetings, workshops.

Follow up to make sure that action has been taken and to inform people of the outcome.

See the publication How to Make Meetings Work, and also Committees, Public meetings, Workshops.

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Methods for participation

The methods for participation featured in this guide fall under three main heads

Techniques. Frequently used short-term interventions employed by consultants and trainers. They range from communication materials and simple workshop sessions through to more complex methods of decision-making like Strategic Choice.

Structures. Interim and longer-term organisational structures used in participation processes. They range from working parties and advisory committees to partnership organisations like development trusts, and community-based coops.

Longer-term Programmes which may involve staff devoted partly or wholly to the programme as well as the use of techniques and structures.

See also the
Signposts section

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Mind Maps

Mind maps or spidergrams are a graphical technique for exploring solutions to problems.

Drawing mind maps

1 Take a large sheet of paper, write your problem in the middle, and draw a line around it.

2 List all the reasons for the problem in a circle around the centre, each in a bubble.

3 Add in the solutions you can think of and connect these to any of the causes or people involved or situations connected with it.

Summarised from How to Solve Your Problems.

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Minutes

Minutes are the formal record of meetings. As such they are an important reference point for any discussions or arguments about what was decided. They can be a spur to action as well.

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Mission

Mission is what you wish to achieve. The term is much favoured in business management, but can confuse people with its military or evangelical overtones. 'Purpose' is an alternative, although it has a slightly different sense - I think mission has a stronger emphasis on end result.

See also Aims and objectives, Outcomes, Purpose.

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Mistakes

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Just don't respond with encores. Anon

You will certainly make them - at least in the eyes of some of those involved. Try and be honest about what happened, and use the results to reshape the process.

See Plan, Act, Review.

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Monitoring and evaluation

At the end of any piece of action you need to know two things that will aid future planning:
How do we know we have been successful?
What can we learn so that we can do it better, or what is the next step?

In order to do this you ideally need to be clear about aims and objectives or purpose, and criteria for judging success. Setting yourself the task of creating a system for monitoring and evaluation may help clarify the purpose and criteria.

Checklist

In planning monitoring and evaluation, consider:

  • What we trying to do?
  • How will we know we have done it?
  • What information do we need to collect and how do we collect it?
  • When is the best time to evaluate how successful it has been?
  • What can we count to use in monitoring and evaluation?
  • Who externally will judge - and on what terms?
  • What satisfaction are we looking for?

See also Criteria, Outcomes.

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Muddle

If you find you aren't sure what to do next, or just seem to go around in circles, try one or more of these techniques:

  • Check that you agree on your aims and objectives.
  • Do a SWOT analysis.
  • Brainstorm some new ideas.
  • Develop priorities by drawing up a Time Line.
  • Follow the Plan, Act , Review cycle.

See also Problem clarification.

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Negotiation

Negotiation is `a back-and-forth communication designed to reach an agreement when you and the other side have some interests that are shared and others that are opposed.' (Getting to Yes).

Practitioners in participation processes are bound to get involved in negotiation as different interests try and work out what they want from any situation, and have degrees of control over the results. You can end up trying to mediate between different factions, facilitating groups discussions, or negotiate between community interests and their own organisation.

Getting to Yes advocates:

1 Separating the people from the problem. Put yourself in other people's shoes to see the problem from their point of view; don't attack the people, address the problem.

2 Focus on interests, not positions. Try and find areas where the outcomes you are seeking will overlap.

3 Invent options for mutual gain. Be creative in developing ideas which could serve achieve the overlapping interests.

4 Insist on objective criteria. Agree ways of judging and reaching solutions which are agreed to be fair.

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Networking

Networking is the important business of making informal contacts, chatting, and picking up further contacts. It is the way to learn:

  • What people are interested in - the issues they consider important.
  • The sort of ideas and language they find familiar.
  • Who are the key people and organisations - the stakeholders.

Some networking is essential before other more formal information-giving like producing leaflets, staging exhibitions and holding meetings. Two specific techniques are suggested in the book Creating Involvement:

1 Telephone trees. A group of people takes responsibility for ringing several others, who in turn ring a further round of contacts.

2 Co-ordinators take responsibility for keeping people in their street or block informed.

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Nominal Group Technique

This technique - sometimes called Snowball - can be used with fairly large groups and is often more successful than Brainstorming with small groups.

NGT

1 Before the meeting clarify what information it is hoped to gather, then develop two specific questions.

2 At the meeting, explain the procedure and split into small groups of 6-8, each with a leader. Display the questions.

3 People work on their own (or in pairs) quietly for 10-15 minutes answering the questions.

4 Group members read out - and the leader lists - the results. Items are clarified or challenged if necessary.

5 Group members vote for their top 5 answers to each question.

6 In plenary session the group leaders display and explain summary charts, and an overall summary is made if possible.

7 The next stage depends on the content of the meeting, and where it is in an overall process. People can be asked to move back into small groups to take forward particular ideas. Alternatively, people may be given 5 stickers each and asked to vote for their priorities.

8 The meeting should close with a summary of what has happened and what the next stages are likely to be.

Source Charles Ritchie, CORU.

See also Action plans, Brainstorming.

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Options

As I learnt very early in my life in Whitehall, the acid test of any political question is: What is the alternative? Lord Trent.

Think sideways! Edward de Bono.


`There is no alternative' is seldom true. Options are the different ways in which you might achieve what you want, or just take the next step. They are ideas on how to tackle problems and reach solutions.

In order to generate options use Brainstorming or Nominal Group Technique.

See also Creative thinking, Ideas.

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Outcomes

The term 'outcomes' is used in this guide to describe those results of plans and actions which you are seeking to achieve. Thinking in terms of outcomes which you may see, hear, feel as well as the more abstract aims and objectives should help clarify what to do to achieve what you want.

Well formed outcomes

The training consultancy Learning Partnerships offers the following set of questions to help you develop 'well formed' outcomes - those which are most likely to be achievable and in tune with your personal or organisational values.

  • What is the outcome I want for myself? Specify it clearly in positive terms. Avoid saying 'no more ..', 'stop doing...', 'less of...'
  • How will I know when I have attained it?
  • What will I see, hear, and feel to confirm the achievement of my outcome?
  • Is it within my direct control? What can I realistically do to initiate or maintain this outcome?
  • How does it fit in with my broader outcomes, and the rest of my life?
  • What is the ecological impact of this outcome? If I get it what will that do to my whole system?
  • What resources (in the broadest sense) do I have available? Can I use them in different ways?
  • What are the time boundaries?
  • When shall I start? How long will it take? How will I know it is progressing?

It may be necessary, and well worthwhile, to re-cycle through the steps, as your outcome becomes better and better defined; and, as the process proceeds, the outcome may well change.

See also Aims and objectives, Plan, Act Review

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Ownership

The stake that people have in an idea, a project or an organisation is fundamental to their commitment. `Not invented here' is a powerful block to gaining people's involvement - whether they are councillors, officers, professionals, business people or residents. For that reason early brainstorming workshops, where everyone has a chance to contribute ideas, are important.

See also Control.

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Parish maps

A technique in which features of human and natural interest which local people value are shown on a map of the locality and publicly displayed. The maps can be any size, shape, scale or material - such as paint, ceramic, textiles or photography. Advice and information is available from the Parish Maps Project at Common Ground, who publish two useful booklets Parish Maps and The Parish Boundary. Rural Community Councils have helped with parish maps by providing information and support (contact ACRE for local addresses).

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Participation

1 A process during which individuals, groups and organisations are consulted about or have the opportunity to become actively involved in a project or programme of activity.

2 The third phase of the participation process described in the section It takes time. In this phase whoever is promoting and managing participation engages with the range of interests in the community, using methods described in this guide.

See also
Easy answers and Guidelines on how to...

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Partnership

Partnerships are formal or informal arrangements to work together to some joint purpose. In my view:

  • Informal partnerships work best when the project is specific and can be achieved relatively quickly: the purpose is clear, and outcomes achievable.
  • Where the task is complex and long term it may be necessary for formalise the partnership through some constitution or contractual arrangement. This provides a structure for decision-making and agreeing ways of working.
  • What doesn't work is to try and tackle a wide range of issues through an informal partnership, particularly if the parties do not know each other well.
  • On the other hand, simply setting up a partnership structure doesn't solve the problems. You still need to work through clarifying joint purpose, values etc.

See also Acting together.

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Past and Future

This is a simple technique in which a group uses past shared experiences to think about the future.

Past and future

1 Split into groups of 3 or 4

2 Provide each group with a large piece of paper label PAST at the top, and FUTURE at the bottom, and about 20 Post-it notes.

3 Each group member writes what they thought most worthwhile or successful in the past, and what they should be tackling in future. One point to a note.

4 People stick notes on the appropriate part of the paper, and cluster them when they are similar.

5 Small groups report back to the larger group.

Adapted from Training and How to Enjoy It, John Grayson.

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Phases of participation

Participation is not achieved in one survey, leaflet or meeting - it is a process. People and groups need time to understand what is proposed, develop trust and work out what to do. This guide identifies four main phases in a participation process, and takes them as one of the main dimensions of the framework of participation. The phases are:

Initiation: something triggers the idea of participation, and a champion emerges for the process.

Preparation: the practitioner who will manage the process plans it with the promoter/champion, makes informal contacts and agrees a strategy.

Participation: materials are produced, events held, and other participation methods used to involve a range of interests.

Continuation: the proposals, projects or programmes agreed in the previous phase are taken forward.

The section I
t takes time describes the phases in more detail.

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Plan, act, review

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt.

In order to make regular checks on progress and keep your plans under review, see development of your participation process as a cycle:

  • Plan how you will achieve your aims.
  • Take action on the basis of these plans.
  • Review progress regularly.
  • If necessary, modify your plans.
  • Put the new plans into action....and so on
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Planning for Real

Planning for Real is a powerful technique for involving individuals and groups in decisions about their neighbourhood, a site or building by producing a three-dimensional model. The Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation has produced a pack for the three-stage process:

1 Everyone from school children to residents and local workers are encouraged to be involved in the process of preparing the model. A local skills survey may also be carried out.

2 The model is exhibited at different places around the locality - cafes, libraries, shops and pubs - with extensive publicity.

3 Workshops are held at which everyone is encouraged to place cut-out cards representing uses, problems or other issues on the model.

Small groups concerned with specific issues re-arrange suggestions and negotiate with other groups. An action plan is produced.

The Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation produces a range of packs to facilitate the process. Planning for Real and similar model-based techniques can be very effective in involving people because they allow 'hands on' responses, do not rely on written material, and give everyone a say. If the technique is to be used honestly - rather than to create false expectations - it is important that:

  • People are aware of the 'real world' constraints on making physical and other changes.
  • It is clear where responsibility for decisions lies, and how far the ideas developed will be taken on by, say, professional designers who may be involved in the process.
  • If there is to be some degree of community involvement in implementation, some organisational development takes place.

See also Design Game, Structures and the book Creating Involvement for a longer discussion.

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Politicians

I have never regarded politics as the arena of morals. It is the arena of interests.
Aneurin Bevan.


Politicians - councillors, MPs - will be important stakeholders in any participation process. They are in the business of identifying different interest groups, and balancing priorities. On the one hand they may be a stumbling block, concerned about challenges to their power and status. On the other hand they can be an invaluable source of contacts and influence. Like any other stakeholder it is important to see things from their point of view - to find what they are interested in, what they are seeking to achieve - and to get to know them informally. Try and judge their leadership style, and work with them accordingly. You may get more done if you let them take some credit.

See also Leadership, Stakeholders.

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Post-it notes

A great technical aid to collective decision-making, and an improvement on basic Brainstorming. When running workshops give people pads of Post-its to write their ideas on, then stick them on a chart and move them around into groups.

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Power

Behind participation processes lie issues of power and control. For example:

  • Do all key interests have an equal ability or opportunity to participate if they wish?
  • Who designs the process, and to whom are they accountable?
  • Who sets the timetable and controls the funds?
  • Who makes the final decisions?

Participation techniques can disempower people if they are used - consciously or unconsciously - to mask these fundamental questions.

See the longer section on Power and also Access, Control, Empowerment, Ownership.

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Practitioner

The term used in this guide to signify the person most concerned with how a participation process is moved forward.

See also Role of the practitioner.

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Preparation

The second phase in the process of participation described in the section It takes time. In this phase the practitioner managing the process should clarify key issues with whoever is promoting the process, make informal contact with interests in the community, and develop a strategy.

See also
Guidelines on how to...

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Presentations

Speaking without thinking is like shooting without taking aim. Spanish proverb.

Presentations are speeches with props. These may range from a simple flip chart to slides and videos. However, the effectiveness of your presentation will depend more on careful planning than technology. The checklist below should help.

Presentation checklist

  • Define your objective. For example: to inform the audience of our new project and explain how they can be involved.
  • Brainstorm your main ideas using index cards or, if you have one, an outliner on a computer. (This is like a word processor with automatic sub-heading and sub-sub-headings).
  • Keep the main ideas to not more than five if possible. Organise others as sub-points.
  • Put yourself in the place of the audience and think what impression they will get and questions they will ask.
  • If necessary revise your presentation with as much emphasis as possible on benefits for the audience.
  • Prepare your visual aids - flip chart, slides - and a handout.
  • Remember KISS - keep it short, and simple: one main ideas per sheet or slide. Use short phrases only as prompts to your presentation.

Presentations are most appropriate for informing and consulting rather than deciding together. However they are an excellent way of clarifying what you are trying to say - and getting feedback - at the start of any participation process.

See also Communication, Information, Press releases.

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Press Releases

Journalists are bombarded with press releases and bin most of them. Generally personal contact produces more result on important issues. However, you may well need to produce press releases to announce events, provide background, summarise reports or circulate speeches in advance.

Checklist

  • Write the release as a news story covering who, why, what, where, when, how.
  • Use a short headline and an interesting first paragraph.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Keep it short.
  • Include lively quotes if possible.
  • Use one side of the paper only, wide margins and double spacing.
  • Date the release, and indicate if there is a time embargo on use.

Provide a contact number for further enquiries.

See also Communication, Five Ws plus H, Media.

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Principles of participation

The advice in this guide is based on the following principles:

  • Effective participation requires a planned process in which the key interests agree on the level of participation which is appropriate.
  • Participation involves developing agreement on both what is to be achieved - the outcomes - and how it is to be done - the methods.
  • Participation is a process of learning and development for all concerned. It takes time.
  • People will only be involved if they understand each other, have the confidence to participate, and can see some point to it.
  • The use of short-term methods and techniques for participation requires understanding of the overall process, and skilled application. There are no quick fixes.
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Print

Print is not always the most effective means of communication, but it is important everything of importance is written down and appropriate material is freely available. Among the print methods you may use are:

  • Committee reports and other formal papers. Are they freely available - and if not, why not? Few people may be interested, but making them available combats rumours and dispels mistrust.
  • Letterheads for a project or new organisation. These may seem simple, but raise important questions of what you are called, where you are based, and the way you present yourself.
  • Leaflets and posters. Useful in two ways. First externally - to promote meetings or give a simple explanation of your project. Second internally - challenging you to agree on what you are trying to say, to whom, and what response you want.
  • Newsletters. Worth doing if you have new information to give people regularly, or production is a good way of involving people. Occasional bulletins linked to events can be effective. Drop newsletters if they become a chore or the self-congratulatory.
  • Folders. Instead of, say, a substantial brochure, consider a card folder containing a newsletter, leaflet, and inserts on letterheads. It is much easier to update.
  • Reports. Putting the results of a project between covers builds credibility. Considering the report during a project, not just at the end, may help you clarify what you are trying to achieve. If you are running an organisation, take trouble over your annual report for the same reasons.

Checklist

In preparing print consider:

  • Who your audience are.
  • What response you want from them: are you informing, consulting, etc.?
  • The tone of your message - are you promoting yourself, or offering help?
  • The use of illustration: pictures are worth quite a few words.
  • Style and identity. A clear message and effective design carries more weight than waffle in full. Working with a designer will give you a fresh perspective on what you are trying to say.

See also Identity, Information.

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Priority Search

Priority Search is a survey technique used by the Priority Search Team, set up by Sheffield City Council, to conduct consultation exercises. The five stages are:

1 The key issue or problem is identified with the client, and a survey plan developed.

2 A focus group of about 20 people representative of those to be surveyed develops ideas for solutions around the key issue.

3 The solutions form the basis for questionnaire design.

4 The questionnaires are completed by the wider population.

5 The team analyses the survey results and produces a report for the client showing the consensus order of priority for all those surveyed, and the differences, common themes and trends among different groups in the community.

See Creating Involvement. for a fuller description.

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Problem clarification

You can't find an appropriate solution unless you are sure that you are tackling the right problem. A lot of ideas, discussion, and decision-making suffer from a failure to keep asking: `Is this really the problem?'

Clarifying problems

Here's a few ideas on how to make sure you are clear:

1 Explain the problem to someone else, simply. Listen to what they say.

2 Consider what would be a solution - what outcome you are seeking. Where are you now? What are the obstacles in getting from here to there?

3 Split what you may want from what you really need - and concentrate on the needs.

4 Do a SWOT analysis.

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Problems

Problems are what make us think. In participation processes they are the barriers to progress, conflicts, uncertainties which make it difficult to know what to do.

See also Barriers to participation, Decision making, Problem Clarification

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Process as a journey

Planning and carrying out a project or participation process can be seen as a journey. The key questions, and topics and techniques which may help answer them are:

1 Where you are now? (Assessment, Stakeholder analysis, SWOT).

2 Where you want to be? (Outcomes, Purpose).

3 What is the best way to get there? (Action Planning, Decision Making, Options).

4 What barriers may you face? (Barriers to participation, Problems)

5 How you will know how far you have travelled? (Monitoring and Evaluation, Success).

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Public meetings

Although widely used, public meetings are not the most effective method of involving people. While they may be useful giving information, and gaining support around a clear-cut issue, they are poor vehicles for debate and decision-making. Classic public meetings with a platform party can easily be dominated by a small number of people, and become stage sets for confrontation.

Checklist

If you do hold a public meeting:

  • Ensure good preparation and publicity.
  • Research local concerns and focus on these rather than generalised issues.
  • Keep any presentations short with opportunities for audience response.
  • Consider running workshop groups with report back, rather than keeping everyone together all the time.
  • Choose someone independent and locally respected as chair.
  • Ensure the venue is easily accessible.
  • Build on the results.

See also Access, Five Ws and H, Meetings, Presentations, Publicity, Workshops. The book Creating Involvement provides further guidance on planning and running public meetings.

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Publicity

There are three key questions to ask before embarking on any publicity:

1 Who are you trying to reach? For example, members of an organisation, the general public, sponsors, media, politicians.

2 What result do you want? For example, opinions, volunteers, funding, support.

3 How will you respond? For example, personal contact, leaflets, events or in other ways.

The answers to these questions will determine your choice of publicity method - for example, exhibitions, media, events, print or audio-visual.

See also Communications, Identity and Image, Five Ws plus H.

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Purpose

'If one does not know to which port one is steering, no wind is favourable.' Seneca,

A statement of purpose, or mission statement, is a summary in a sentence or two of your intention - your aims and objectives. It may be the broad statement of the reason for a project or a group's existence. Statements of purpose may start out as broad intentions like 'we aim to create a better place to live and work'. They become meaningful when the aim is followed with statements of how: for example 'by providing advise and support for practical environmental projects'. There may be a number of these 'how to' statements which are objectives. If they are measurable, they become targets. Purpose will be important on two fronts:

  • In clarifying why you are carrying out a participation process.
  • In reaching a common view among those involved about what result - outcome - they want.

Creating a statement of purpose

This may be done directly by working as individuals and a group on the statement, or by working up from options and objectives. To create a statement directly:
Work individually to write down one or two sentences expressing your intention.
Pool these and amalgamate by identifying areas of agreement, and discussing disagreements.

To work from options:

  • Brainstorm specific ideas to achieve your aim.
  • Summarise 8-10 of these on cards, with a paragraph description of each.
  • As a group place them in order of priority.
  • Reflect on the common theme which lies behind the projects, and the criteria you used to priorities.
  • Develop the statement of purpose around the common theme, and a statement of values which reflects the criteria.

See also Aims and objectives, Outcomes, Vision.

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Recruitment

Enlisting the support of people for a project, or their membership of a group or organisation, is most likely to be effective if you:

  • Put yourself in their shoes - what benefit are you offering them?
  • Provide a chance for people to think through what is involved, perhaps in a small group.
  • Ask existing members to bring friends along.


See also Barriers to participation, Commitment.

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Research

Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification. Martin H. Fisher.

The research you may need to do in planning and starting a participation process will depend in part of the level of participation you are considering.

For example:

  • For levels of information and consultation you will need to research and prepare clear proposals early in the process to put to other interests.
  • If you are aiming for Deciding or Acting Together, it will be more appropriate to delay research into options until this can be agreed together.
  • If you are supporting community initiatives, you may wish to support other people's research.

Whichever level you are working at it will be necessary to find out who are the key interests.

See also Community, Stakeholder analysis.

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Resources

In a participation process you may need two sets of resources: first the skills, money and equipment to run the process, and second, the resources for any project or organisation that develops from the process.

See also Budgets for participation, Fundraising, Skills.

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Role of the practitioner

The go-between wears out a thousand sandals. Japanese proverb.

Much confusion arises when people are not clear about the intentions and responsibilities of practitioners involved in participation processes. For example 'enabler' sounds fine, but people will be mistrustful if they feel that as well as facilitating the discussion you are making decisions on who gets what resources, and have your own agenda. If you are seeking to empower people, it is particularly unhelpful to act as a spokesperson for a group negotiating with authorities, or to act as go-between. It prevents the different interests getting to know each other and developing mutual trust, and can lead to filtering of information and closing options.

See also Enabling.

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Roles and responsibilities in groups

One of the many benefits of working in a group is to be able to share responsibilities with different people undertaking different parts of the work. You may all want to have an equal say, but even groups that work as collectives find it easier to have different individuals taking responsibility for co-ordinating a particular area of work. Whilst every organisation has different needs and different roles, the following checklist may be useful.

Group roles checklist

  • Chairperson for the main committee.
  • Secretary.
  • Chairperson for working groups.
  • Treasurer.
  • Spokesperson.
  • Publicity officer.
  • Meetings organiser.
  • Volunteers organiser.
  • Work co-ordinator.
  • Administrator.

You may want to rotate some of these roles around the group.

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Roles of participants

Marilyn Taylor, of the School for Advanced Urban Studies, suggests that in planning participation a local authority should see those involved in three possible roles:

  • As citizens who have certain political rights and duties, including the right to vote. As such they have an interest in every part of the policies and operation of any authority.
  • As paymasters, people contribute a significant amount of the authority's finances and have a right to call the authority to account for the way it spends their money.
  • As consumers, people use different services paid for by the local authority and sometimes provided by them (e.g. parks, education, highways, leisure, libraries, housing, waste disposal etc.).
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