It is tempting to say that
every situation is so different that general guidelines on
participation are misleading - but that isn't much comfort
to anyone trying to work out how to start.
So here are ten
to get you thinking, rather than provide firm rules. Cross
references are provided to other main sections and
items in the A-Z, and further guidelines on the main
tasks are given later. This section - as others - is written
for someone managing a participation process. Below the
guidelines are some suggestions covering how to:
1 Ask yourself what
you wish to achieve from the participation process, and what
you want to help others achieve. What is the purpose?
framework for participation, Beneficiaries,
Purpose in the
2 Identify the different interests within a community
that you wish to involve, and put yourself in their
See Community, Stakeholders in theA-Z
3 Clarify your own role and whether you are wearing
too many hats - for example, communicator of information,
facilitator of ideas, controller of resources.
See Accountability, Role of the Practitioner in the
4 Consider what balance to strike between keeping
control and gaining other people's commitment, and what
levels of participation this suggests for different
do you stand?
5 Invest as much effort in preparation as
participation with outside interests.
See Preparation in It
6 Run internal participation processes to make sure
your own organisation is committed and can deliver.
See Preparation in It
7 Be open and honest about what you are offering or
seeking, and communicate in the language of those you are
aiming to involve .
See Communication, Trust in the A-Z
8 Make contact informally with key interests before
running any formal meetings.
See Preparation in It
Networking in the A-Z
9 Build on existing organisations and networks -
but don't use them as the only channel of communication and
See Networking, Voluntary sector in the
10 Consider the time and resources you will need.
This section takes the
guidelines above and issues discussed in the more
theoretical sections and suggests how to tackle the main
tasks likely to crop up in a participation process. It does
so by looking at the key issues from a number of angles,
providing checklists, and signposting you on to more detail
to other sections in the guide and items in the A-Z section.
However, it should be treated as guidance only - not a
why you want to involve others
Why is it necessary to
involve other people? Is it for your benefit, theirs, or
1 Consider what you are trying to achieve at the end
of the day, and why this may be best done with others. See
Benefits of participation, Barriers to participation,
2 List the key interests who will have to be
involved, both within your organisation and without. See
Stakeholder analysis in
3 After following the steps below, try out your
ideas informally on a few people you know.
...understand your role
Some of the greatest
problems arise because those promoting or managing
participation are wearing too many different hats.
1 Consider the part you may be expected to play in a
- Someone who controls
- A representative of an
- Some who will initiate,
plan or manage the process?
- Someone using
participation techniques - producing newsletters, holding
meetings, running workshops?
2 If you are trying
to do more than one of these, could there be conflicts? How
will others see you? Can you split roles with someone
3 See Role of the practitioner in the
and earlier sections on Where
do you stand?
for more detailed descriptions of what is involved
in the process.
where you stand
One of the most important
early decision is on the appropriate level of participation,
or stance you will take.
1 Clarify why you want to involve others, and your
possible role - see early steps above.
2 Read the Framework
for participation section,
and consider what level of participation is likely to be
- Information: telling
people what you are going to do.
offering people choices between options you have
- Deciding together:
allowing others to contribute ideas and options, and
- Acting together:
putting your choices into practice in
- Supporting independent
community initiatives - helping others carry out
their own plans.
3 Review who the key
interests are, and what level of participation will be
appropriate for each. See Stakeholders
Experienced trainers and
facilitators reckon that 80 per cent of the potential for
success lies in preparing well before engaging with
individuals and groups.
1 See the Preparation section in
It Takes time.
Work through the internal agenda within your group or
organisation. For example:
- Are your colleagues
agreed on what they wish to achieve, and the level of
- Have you flushed out any
- Will the organisation be
able to deliver on any promises?
2 Make contact
informally with key interests.
- Review the levels of
participation different interests may seek.
- Consider the possible
obstacles which may occur, and the support you will
3 Begin to develop a
strategy which covers:
- The main
- Technical support
See the Signposts
from theory to practice section,
Budgets for participation, Timelinein
outlines what can occur if you don't think through carefully
what methods to use.
1 See the Signposts
section for a theoretical discussion, and pointers to topics
and methods featured in
2 In choosing a method consider:
- Is it appropriate for
the level of participation? For example, powerful
techniques like Planning for Real which give everyone a
say are not appropriate for consultation processes where
you are really only offering people limited
- Do you have the
necessary skills and resources? A slide show may be more
effective than a video.
- Can you follow through?
There is no point doing a survey unless you can handle
the responses and use the information.
- Do you need help? An
experienced trainer or facilitator may be necessary for
some of the more complex methods.
support within your organisation
Many participation processes
fail because the organisations promoting the process cannot
deliver when others respond.
1 See the section
It takes time.
After reviewing the issues there and above (in
...prepare for participation):
2 Use internally some of the techniques you plan to
- Produce communication
materials in draft.
- Run workshop
- Encourage others within
the organisation to take ownership of the proposals,
options or ideas and work them through informally with
other interests. That is the best way to gain internal
commitment or discover what problems may arise
See Commitment planning,
develop your skills as an enabler
Although many of the
techniques suggested in this guide are relatively simple, it
takes some degree of confidence to run a workshop with
community interests for the first time or perhaps argue
through with colleagues the need for a long-term
participation process. Here are a few suggestions on how to
develop your confidence and capability:
- Contact anyone within
your organisation, or locally, with facilitation,
training or general community development experience and
talk through your plans.
- Contact one of the
organisations listed in this guide who offer training and
- Find a low-risk
opportunity to try running a workshop using some of the
- Or even better run a
workshop jointly with an experienced practitioner -
perhaps contacted through one of the organisations
an appropriate structure
Participation is not
necessarily achieved just by setting up a forum, working
group, committee, steering group or other structure. On the
other hand, if you are planning or managing a participation
process you will need some point of accountability, and the
key interests may need to work together formally as well as
creatively. In planning the process:
1 Clarify to whom you are accountable at the
2 If you are working at the `acting together' level
of participation help key interests form a working group or
steering group when appropriate.
3 Review your role and accountability with that new
See items on the structures mentioned, and
Accountability, Structures for participation,
Terms of reference in
Participation processes do
not run on rails, and they cannot be set out as a linear
step-by-step process. Each of the items above may be seen as
a problem which has to be tackled, but not necessarily
solved at one go. Plan, act, review - or as they say in the
States `do it, fix it, try it'.
Bearing that in mind here is a summary of the main
The main tasks in summary
1 Clarify why the participation process is being
started, who has the final say, and what your brief is.
See Accountability, Aims and objectives, Mission.
2 Identify key community interests, including
voluntary and community organisations.
See Community profiling, Networking, Stakeholder
3 Consider the level of participation
appropriate, make informal contacts to identify local
concerns, and whether your stance - the level you are
adopting - is likely to be acceptable.
See Level of participation, Networking.
4 Run a workshop session(s) within your
organisation to ensure key people are clear about the
purpose of the participation process, the roles and
responsibilities, and the answers to basic questions which
will be asked when you go public.
See Barriers to participation, Workshops
5 Consider the stance (Inform, Consult etc.) you
are taking in more detail, and in the light of that decide
on what methods you will use.
See Levels of participation in
6 Review whether your organisation will be able
to respond to the feedback, and follow through on any
7 Review your timescale, and prepare an action plan
based on the level of participation. See Action planning