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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:
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).
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
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.
Citizens data initiative
Since its emergence in Porto Alegre, participatory budgeting has spread to hundreds of Latin American cities, and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. More than 1500 municipalities are estimated to have initiated participatory budgeting. W
Sharing ideas and actions
News and comment
Cormac Russell on change that starts with communities, Jan 24 
How to Create an Outdoor Living Room in Your Neighborhood, Jan 23 
The story of Ahora Madrid, Dec 21 
Common space for exchange: Cities in transition and citizen struggles, Dec 20 
8 Ways to Engage Your Community During Challenging Times, Dec 15 
The possibility of a Co-City, Nov 17 
New Report Highlights Fast Growth of Participatory Budgeting, Sep 20 
“Town Halls for Social Change” by @indy_johar, April 4 
The rise of the citizen expert. How can data-rich technology drive better citizen engagement and make government more effective? February 4 
Polisdigitocracy: Digital Technology, Citizen Engagement and Climate Action – A New C40-Arup Report, November 18 
A Charter for Democracy, September 22 
Integrating activism into governance institutions, September 15 
Author Don Tapscott on the growing influence of public participation, 4 October 
"At its broadest, non-discriminatory access to data means that any person can access the data at any time without having to identify him/herself or provide any justification for doing so." Sunlight Foundation, August 11 
Data alone is not sufficient for problem-solving, but an involved community informed with data just might be, John Tolva, July 2010 
Open Philanthropy: A Modest Manifesto, Lucy Bernholz, 3/15/2010 
Crisis in policymaking for people and planet demands new approach to policymaking that gives citizens a greater say in decisions that affect them, 27/01/2010 
Developing the Open City, 15 October 2009 
How long is your city's tail? by John Geraci, October 7 
The Three Laws of Open Government Data, 30 September 2009 
Not Just Peak Oil, But “Peak Hierarchy,” Too? December 4 
"The best mechanism to confront the challenge of climate change are not market mechanisms, but conscious, motivated, and well organized human beings endowed with an identity of their own." Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, November 28, 2008
"In this negotiation process towards Copenhagen, it is fundamental to guarantee the participation of our people as active stakeholders at a national, regional and worldwide level, especially taking into account those sectors most affected, such as indigenous peoples who have always promoted the defense of Mother Earth." Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, November 28, 2008
"...his (Obama's) only real hope in dealing with the tremendous challenges the country (world) faces will be to harness the collective ingenuity of citizens on a massive scale. In other words, he must enlist a level of participation in generating and acting on innovative solutions that has no obvious parallel in history." Anthony D. Williams 
A Wiki for the Planet: Clay Shirky on Open Source Environmentalism 
"We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes." 
Wikis And Blogs As Instruments Of Citizen Participation, May 11