such as Involvement, Consultation and Participation are often
used interchangeably but it is important to be clear what
kind of process you are planning.
Involvement is a general term, covering all the ways in
which local people take part in discussions and planning.
occurs when people are asked for their views about a proposal
or a project that someone else has developed, or about a
service they are using.
occurs when people are invited to be involved in planning
and developing a project and can help shape it from the
start. They may also be invited to help manage the work.
residents a say in matters that affect where they live is
simple common sense. They know the real problems and may well
have ideas on how to deal with them. It makes sense also for
local people to know why participation is happening, and to
understand what may be expected of them.
participation is more than just good sense. It can have very
specific benefits for developers as well as for communities.
While involving people may take time and money, but it can
processes to be speeded up;
to be used more effectively;
quality and feelings of local ownership to improve;
value to emerge;
and skills to increase for all; and
to be more readily resolved.
(‘Effective participation’ Department of the Environment
in a tower block has problems and advantages. The problems
often relate to people feeling that have been ignored and
treated badly by the landlords for years. The advantages are
that you know who you need to consult with and (mostly) where
they live. It’s easy to send a letter direct to every flat.
But do bear in mind that a major refurbishment may also affect
people who live nearby and also people who work in and around
the block and manage the services.
participation does happen but participation processes are
often ineffective. They don’t give people an adequate opportunity
to talk, they don’t pay much attention to the ideas that come
forward, and they don’t seem to change anything. As a result
people feel they have given their time and energy for nothing.
They may feel unhappy or angry and they are less likely to
get involved in a similar process in the future.
fails for many reasons that include:
a lack of adequate resourcing;
lack of time, and
lack of trust in the process.
of money and resources
Effective participation takes time and costs money. There
should be a clear budget, people to run the process, and the
budget should be made clear to those being asked to participate.
RIBA Community Architecture Group suggests that, as a guideline,
1% of the total cost of any development should be allocated
for participation in the design and development process. This
should be identified in the budgets just as any other activity
Those running participation programmes often lack experience
and expertise. Just as no-one would be asked to design a house
without training, so anyone responsible for community participation
should be trained. They should know how to select the right
techniques, how to run the process, how to deal with problems
that may arise, and how to encourage people to get involved.
If you are working in a block with many problems and high
resident turnover there is likely to be little trust in the
process at the start. There’s no easy way to overcome this,
but work with any existing resident group – they at least
are likely to be prepared to help get things moving.
and techniques for participation
there are only a few people involved in a process, and it
concerns a well-defined issue, then all that may be needed
is to sit down together for a few hours. However issues are
usually more complicated than that. For this reason a range
of special techniques have developed. These are all designed
to make the process more effective by encouraging people to
say what they really want and think. Theses processes are
often run by an independent facilitator. ‘Action Planning’
by Nick Wates (Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture,
1996) remains one of the best guides to techniques.
of these techniques can be seen as tools that help people
work together. It is always important that the right tool
is used for each situation, and that the person running it
knows how to use the tool properly.
participation work - 12 steps to a successful process.
guidelines should help anyone launching and running a participative
1. Good participation takes time and money. Plan well in advance:
work out what resources are needed (staff time, printed materials,
room use, expenses etc.) and produce a clear budget. If you
can’t get the budget you want, scale the plans down – don’t
start something you can’t finish.
2. Work out what techniques may be most appropriate. Seek
advice from other people or organisations.
3. Work out who the key groups to involve are. Work with any
existing group to make sure that all the relevant people are
4. Identify groups with special needs (e.g. young people,
ethnic minority groups, disabled people) and plan ways to
encourage them to take part.
5. Send out the information / invitations well in advance,
and include enough relevant information so that people can
see why what you’re planning is important. Circulate publicity
material widely especially where you think stakeholders will
see it (foyers, community centres etc.)
6. Meet with existing community leaders in advance of the
first public event. Take notice of their concerns and involve
them in planning that event.
7. If this is a major development make sure that the key people
involved come to the first public event (architects, planners,
heads of regeneration agencies, senior councillors etc). Make
sure that all relevant documentation is available.
8. Invite interested groups and individuals to help form an
advisory group or steering committee for the process if appropriate.
9. Be open and frank at all times. If there are problems explain
them as fully as possible. People are far more likely to help
solve problems if they think people are being open and honest.
10. Make sure that all events are well publicised, that good
clear minutes are taken and are circulated to everyone involved
(not just those who attend that meeting).
11. Be clear about what happens after the end of the public
participation phase, and make it clear when it does end. Use
the last meeting to review the process and agree the key issues
that have arisen.
12. If there is a decision to be made then make sure that
participants know when and by who that decision is being made.
Let everyone who gave their time and energy know what decision
was made and why.