Community Participation Examining & Weighing

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

Because of the numerous, public failures of public administrators and government officials, many communities will not cooperate without representation and participation in legislation and activities such as community participation and community engagement.

There is also growing recognition on the part of administrators that decision making without public participation is ineffective. In recent times, interest in public participation in administrative decision making has increased as a result of a number of factors, not the least of which is that a citizenry with diminished trust in government is demanding more accountability from public officials (Parr and Gates, 1989). There is also a growing recognition on the part of administrators that decision making without public participation is ineffective. (King et al., 1998)

Whereas public administrators and government officials may have previously not relied upon the approval and cooperation of the communities in previous decades and generations, currently, it behooves them to engage communities in the 21st century as citizens have the potential to be far more informed and educated about issues that affect the community, as well as the corresponding public servants.

Public officials attempts to make decisions on behalf of a community without the participation of the community does not prove effective in the long-term and may additionally cost resources and time. In an effort to use resources more effectively, community participation is a part of this strategy. Cultures like time are relative; meaning, the kinds of community participation that work in one community are not guaranteed to yield the same results in another community, even if the communities are relatively similar. When public officials and administrators make attempts at public engagement and participation must do the research and know the community and culture(s) with which they wish to engage or else the probability of success decreases significantly.

In the context of conventional participation, the administrator controls the ability of the citizen to influence the situation or the process. The administrative structures and processes are the politically and socially constructed frameworks within which the administrator must operate. These frameworks give the administrator the authority to formulate decisions…[and] has no real power to redefine the issue or to alter administrative processes to allow for greater citizen involvement. (King et al., 1998)

Public scandals, misconceptions, bad methods, and unequal social relationships contribute to the failure of community participation on behalf of public administrators. Public administrators have the daunting task to earn the trust and respect of the communities they serve. The general climate or attitude toward public administrator and public officials is one of great mistrust in conventional practices of community participation.

In the context of conventional participation the administrator plays the role of the expert…participation within this context is structured to maintain the centrality of the administrator while publicly presenting the administrator as representative, consultative, or participatory. The citizen becomes the "client" of the professional administrator, illequipped to question the professional's authority and technical knowledge…the administrator is separated from the "demands, needs, and values" of the people whom he or she is presumed to be serving…Participation in this context is ineffective and conflictual... (King et al., 1998)

People want to believe in their officials and administrators, but they are continually proven wrong and the press prefers to highlights officials' mistakes rather than those with integrity and success. Administrators have to make the community members feel as if they are equal and that their knowledge is just as potent and valuable as the knowledge of the administration.

Effective community participation is a formidable challenge from the perspective of the community and from that of the public administrator. There are advantages to community participation in that when it works, people experience the feeling of overcoming a challenge as well as the feeling of direct action that results in the improvement of the community. Before endeavoring upon community participation, all parties should cultivate awareness of any biases and consider how it may affect the activity and the outcome. As aforementioned, attitudes regarding community participation from both sides of the activity are currently in a state of flux. Whereas previously community participation went from very important, to not important, it is now essential from the community standpoint. Whereas before from the perspective of the administration or government, community participation was integral to a nuisance, has now become a moderate necessity. These changes are having direct affects on the frequency and success of community participation.

Authentic participation requires that administrators focus on both process and outcome. In this context, participation is an integral part of administration, rather than an add-on to existing practices. Authentic participation means that the public is part of the deliberation process from issue framing to decision making…[In authentic participation, administrators are] involving citizens in "dialectical exchange" (Fischer, 1993, 183) and by engaging with citizens in discourse (Fox and Miller, 1995), rather than simply getting citizens input. Then, the administrator becomes a cooperative participant, assisting citizens in examining their interests, working together with them to arrive at decisions, and engaging them in open and authentic deliberation. (King et al., 1998)

Community participation is a process and action. Consideration for this activity as a process helps all those involved to participate with quality and higher chance of success. The best community participation occurs when all parties work together during every stage of the process and are treated as equals who are on the same side with the same goal -- the improvement of the community. A disadvantage to community participation as a strategy is that is may be quite time consuming, depending on the pre-existing tensions within the community as well as between the community and public administrators & officials. In the long run, community participation proves effective, though it may take revisions to the process, lengthy community research, and arguments.

References:

Baiocchi, G. 1999, 'Participation, Activism, and Politics: The Porto Alegre Experiment and Deliberative Democratic Theory.' University of Wisconsin: Madison.

Bovaird, T. 2007, 'Beyond Engagement and Participation: User and Community Coproduction of Public Services.' Public Administration Review, September/October, 846 -- 860.

Carr, D.S., & Halvorsen, K. 2001, 'An Evaluation of Three Democratic, Community-Based Approaches to Citizen Participation: Surveys, Conversation With Community Groups, and Community Dinners.' Society and Natural Resources, vol. 14, 107 -- 126.

Cornwall, A., & Coelho, V.S.P. (eds) 2004, 'New Democratic Spaces?' Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, vol. 35, no. 2, 1 -- 100.

Gaventa, J. 2004, 'Representation, Community Leadership and Participation: Citizen Involvement in Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Governance.' Institute of Development Studies: UK.

Innes, J.E., & Booher, D.E. 2000, 'Public Participation in Planning: New Strategies for the 21st Century.' IURD Working Papers Series, Institute of Urban and Regional Development, University of California: Berkeley.

Irvin, R.A., & Stansbury, J. 2004, 'Citizen Participation in Decision Making: Is It Worth the Effort?' Public Administration Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 55 -- 65.

King, C.S., Feltey, K.M., & Susel, B.O.N. 1998, 'The Question of Participation: Toward Authentic Public Participation in Public Administration.' Public Administration Review, vol. 58, no. 4, 317 -- 326.

Lowndes, V., Pratchett, L., & Stoker, G. 2001, 'Trends in Public Participation: Part 1 -- Local Government Perspectives.' Public Administration, vol. 79, no. 1, 205 -- 222.

McNeish, J-A. 2006, 'Stones on the Road: The Politics of Participation and the Generation of Crisis in Bolivia.' Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 25, no. 2, 220 -- 240.

Weeks, E.C. 2000, 'The Practice of Deliberative Democracy: Results from Four Large-Scale Trials.' Public Administration Review, vol. 60, no. 4, 360 -- 372.

Williams, J.J. 2006, 'Community Participation -- Lessons from post apartheid South Africa.' Policy Issues, vol. 27, no. 3, 197 -- 217.

discuss the advantages and disadvantages of community participatory and engagement. Can talk about types or different methods of participation, their advantages and disadvantages. How each method assists in communication and decision making and community participation for communities made up of different people, education, language i.e. how western participation methods may or may not work with indigenous/aboriginal communities so instead use photo boards/images to tell a story…