A ladder of citizen participation

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This article begins by asking what is citizen participation and what is its relationship to the social imperatives of our time? A politically contentious issue, citizenship participation is seen as a categorical term for citizen power. It is the redistribution of power that enables excluded citizens to be deliberately included. Given that there is a critical difference between going through the motions of participation and having real power, this article analyses eight levels of participation to clarify how a participatory process can have significant effects. These levels are: Manipulation - for instance, placing people on committees or advisory boards for the purpose of engineering their support; Therapy - the assumption is that powerlessness is synonymous with mental illness. Both manipulation and therapy describe levels of non-participation that have been contrived by some substitute for genuine participation; Informing citizens of their rights, is important, but can place too much emphasis on one-way information flows; Consultation - similarly, inviting citizens opinions can be a legitimate step towards participation, but offers no assurances that citizens concerns will be taken into account; Placation - for instance, placing worthy poor on boards of public bodies; Partnership - at this rung of the ladder, power is redistributed through negotiation between citizens and powerholders; Delegated power - when citizens achieve dominant decision-making authority over a particular plan or programme; Citizen control a situation in which people demand a degree of power which guarantees that participants can govern a programme.

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Journal Title: 
Journal of American Institute of Planners
Vol. 35, no. 4