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Draft for posting to The IdealGovernment Wiki : participation / posted Philralph @sca21 15:59, February 10, 2010 (UTC)

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.[1]

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.


  • An imaginary open letter: To those who would ‘engage’ us…, August 9, 2012 By Mike
  • Exposing the lie, 26th July 2012, by John Houghton,


Parliament Square

Westminster World Heritage Site and Parliament Square a national disgrace, Hansard Society, October 25 [2] New vision putting citizen and visitor at its heart needed. place, topic


High Speed 2 consultation "a train wreck", say CPRE, 28 February [3]

Councils and hyperlocal ‘bloggers’: It’s the council system which needs changing, not how people are allowed to cover them, David Higgerson, February 23 [4]


Eric Pickles: Citizen journalists and bloggers should be let in to public council meetings, 23 February [5]


"If nothing else the transparency that the social web embodies and that government says it wants to deliver with #opendata means that we will no longer be able to hide our policy programmes in big black boxes that we only open up on launch day" Catherine Howe, January 23 [6]

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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.

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Notes and references

  1. 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.
  3., 28 February 2011
  4. davidhiggerson, February 23, 2011
  5., 23 February 2011
  6. curiouscatherine, January 23, 2011

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