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Citizen centred participation
Online participation needs to be considered in the context of participation as a whole. In the main, for the forseeable future, online participation will be just one part of a wider mix. Particpation here is used to include participation by citizens with government, local government and institutional civic society.
Citizen centred participation as the name suggests, is an approach that puts the needs, aspirations and wellbeing of citizens at the heart of participation. This contrasts with a more traditional approach which put the needs of organisations at the centre, often treated them as paramount, and sometimes as the only needs worthy of consideration.
Citizen centred participation in policy making opens up, to citizen involvement, both
- the design, practice and assessment of participation processes themselves, as well as enabling citizens to influence both
- the broad direction and the detail of policy.
Open design specifically includes
- the scope and context of involvement processes
- any stages or processes necessary to synthesize participation responses
and where necessary
- conflict resolution processes
Citizen centred participation specifically involves citizens in building communities of interest relevant to policy making.
It also gives citizens a primary role in evaluating the involvement processes themselves. The test for success is no longer defined in terms of what success might mean for an organisation, but what success means to the citizens involved.
Such an approach both relies on, but also builds on transparency and open government. For example if there are reasons why organisational interests need to be given weight in the design of a participation process, then these reasons should be capable of standing up to public scrutiny.
The ethos underlying citizen centred participation is that of government as the enabler of the wellbeing of us all. Such a goal transcends the narrower focus of organisational self interest.
Opportunities for involvement are designed to be open to all interested parties, not just a favoured few. Opportunities for involvement recognise and value citizens being proactive not just reactive. Government recognises that some opportunities for involvement will be citizen-created and citizen-organised. Not only does government support and encourage such intitiatives but is also open to the idea of fully and appropriately engaging within them.
Citizens are enabled to influence policy in both direct and more subtle ways.
Participation as a whole tends to become an ongoing process, or at least a process which is always open. Online records are permanently open and kept permanently. Fully open and complete online records of involvement and influence, help provide recognition, reward, respect, trust, and, last but not least, learning and not having to keep reinventing the wheel. Government, along with and within communities of interest involved, learns to become a learning community in its fullest sense.
Notes and references
- Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement, The Case Foundation, 2006
- "People first - The review has confirmed our starting conviction that in order to understand participation we need to understand it from the point of view of the individuals doing it... Much of the literature on participation, and particularly on public participation, tends to start with the institutions..." Understanding participation: A literature review, p.40, pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk, December 2009
- Designing an associative life, doorsofperception.com, December 15, 2009
- Open Declaration on European Public Services
- Session Idea: Innovative Consultations: how can citizen input have more impact?, ukgc09
- "Attendees will want a voice in the discussion, learning and decision making process. The gap between the experts that are speaking on stage and the amateurs in the audience has never been smaller. Attendees are well educated, informed and have information at their fingertips. As this gap continues to shrink, attendees will expect to be part of the discussion, learning and decision making processes. No more speakers talking and attendees listening!" 10 Ways Social Media Will Transform Events in 2010, by Samuel J. Smith, January 12, 2010
- "Following a critical review of Directgov - the Government's central online portal - the official consumer champion Consumer Focus promised a campaign to ensure that users of digital public services get a better experience in future. What's needed to achieve this, Consumer Focus believes, is a stronger user perspective on digital service delivery from the very start." Developing better digital public services through user involvement, David Wilcox on January 14, 2010
- abstract of Copons project, Catalonia, Spain, on Social by Social, 2nd comment
- Citizen with citizen involvement is not specifically mentioned here even though it may be a large part of any participation process. The discussion here focusses on participation with at least some institutional or organisational involvement. Citizen with citizen involvement can concern questions of civic value. What constitutes civic value should be a discussion which is itself open to citizen involvement.