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What communities can do
Overview, see right hand column for more
Why it matters
Community involvement is about people and communities being able to play a full part in decision-making, for example local decision-making, and so influence the decisions which affect their lives. It is also about community empowerment, for example through access to appropriate information and adivce.
Proper community involvement is not tokenistic. Instead it is on-going, valued, meaningful, provides extensive opportunity and is genuinely and extensively influential.
Proper community involvement is not about allowing mere comment on decisions that have already largely been taken. Instead it begins at the design stage, the very beginning of any project or programme.
Proper community involvement does not include measures of success being foisted upon the community, or worse still simply being ignored. Instead it gives a primary role to the community in judging how successful a project or programme has been.
Rio Declaration on Environment and DevelopmentThe Rio Declaration of 1992 enshrines public participation in its 27 principles. Principle 10 states that "environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level”. The Rio Declaration continues, drawing a close link between access to information and public participation:
"At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided." W
The co-production of public services has been defined in a variety of ways - e.g. "Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours" (new economics foundation) or "the public sector and citizens making better use of each other's assets and resources to achieve better outcomes and improved efficiency" (Governance International).
Main article: Participatory budgeting
Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent. When PB is taken seriously and is based on mutual trust local governments and citizen can benefit equally. In some cases PB even raised people's willingness to pay taxes.
Participatory budgeting generally involves several basic steps: 1) Community members identify spending priorities and select budget delegates 2) Budget delegates develop specific spending proposals, with help from experts 3) Community members vote on which proposals to fund 4) The city or institution implements the top proposals
A comprehensive case study of eight municipalities in Brazil analyzing the successes and failures of participatory budgeting has suggested that it often results in more equitable public spending, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalized or poorer residents), and democratic and citizenship learning. W
Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a population to make meaningful contributions to decision-making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities. In 2011, considerable grassroots interest in participatory democracy was generated by the Occupy movement. W
Participatory justice is the use of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, conciliation, and arbitration, in criminal justice systems, instead of, or before, going to court. It is sometimes called "community dispute resolution". W
Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that emphasizes involving the entire community in the strategic and management processes of urban planning; or, community-level planning processes, urban or rural. It is often considered as part of community development. Participatory planning aims to harmonize views among all of its participants as well as prevent conflict between opposing parties. In addition, marginalized groups have an opportunity to participate in the planning process. W
News and comment
See separate article: Community involvement news
Apps for sustainability
Promise Tracker, Data collection for civic action. After an election, how can citizens hold elected leaders accountable for promises they made during the campaign season? We believe that informed communities, equipped with data, are the best positioned to assess the performance of their representatives and advocate for change on a local level. Promise Tracker explores how citizen monitoring can extend civic engagement between election cycles.
There resides in all populations a "mass of sense lying in a dormant state - which good government should quietly harness." Tom Paine 
*"Where I live in Marin County, it was citizen action that instigated the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres as open space and parkland; it was not government taking the initiative. That mostly happened in the pre-Internet days. Now that we’ve got the Net and there’s more talent, creativity and freedom in the civic sector than in government, it’s time that citizens once again take the lead in building tools and solving problems for their localities." cfigallo 
"Given how radical a departure these participatory ways of working are from the closed-door status quo (or the view that participation is limited to voting and opinion polling), we cannot declare, define, and repeat often enough what it could mean to embrace collaboration and co-creation; to make consultation part of operations on a day-to-day basis; to strive for constant conversation with an engaged and knowledgeable public and to reinvent the conception of public service and of the public servant as the steward of such a conversation.." Beth Simone Noveck 
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