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This chapter is the starting point for exploring a variety of participatory methods. It is not meant to be a guide to choosing the right way to involve people. It does not provide a list of all existing methods, or a ‘how to’ guide. More information about methods used and described in the CIPAST context and additional information can be found in Design/How to choose a method/ ‘Exercise’ , as well as on the CIPAST website or in the bibliography in What else?/ ‘Bibliography’ .
The list of the participatory methods currently being used is quite broad. All methods have their strengths and weaknesses and the key is to select the right one for the particular purpose and context, rather than to choosing one method as a ‘favourite’ and using it all the time. Participatory processes can also combine several methods to achieve an aim. They can be applied in many fields including health, land use planning, housing, environmental and natural resource management, conflict resolution, marketing, public relations, social research, or community and international development, among many others.
Table: Roles of Participation in Technology Assessment
|Raising Knowledge||Forming Attitudes||Initialising Action|
|Tech/ Science Aspects||Scientific Assessment (options,consequences)||Agenda setting (influence and stimulate public debate, Introduce visions etc.)||Reframing of debate (propose new initiatives – find new orientation)|
|Social Aspects||Social Mapping (stake holders, conflicts)||Mediation (help actors reflect and communicate – bridge building)||Propose new decision making processes|
(new ways of governance – new debate)
|Policy aspects||Policy analysis (explore objectives, assess policies)||Restructure policy debate||Decisions about: |
In practice methods from certain fields tend to produce certain outputs. For example, those from conflict resolution are good at building relationships and finding common ground, while those from marketing, are good at identifying existing wants and needs. But any discussion of participation that focuses on methods alone is liable to be unsuccessful, both for those organising the process and for those participating in it.
Meanwhile there are innumerable different methods being used, and many greater or lesser variations of them. Sometimes it is hard to know where one method ends and another begins.
You can find overviews at:
People & Participation: How to put citizens at the heart of decision-making, A description of methods used in the UK, Involve 2005, http://www.involving.org
The Toolkit on participatory methods' contains a presentation of different methods, a step-by-step, a hands-on manual with detailed checklists, and realistic expectations of outcomes. http://www.viwta.be/files/30890_ToolkitENGdef.pdf
Key parameters in assessing methods
Finding out about the benefits and limitations of different participatory methods can be difficult. Participation is not an exact science and the scores that we have given each method are only indications. A skilled practitioner can often make a method work in a situation for which it was never designed; equally, an appropriate method used badly will fail to live up. The key parameters to be considered when choosing a method are:
- Suitable number of participants;
- Roles of participants;
- Length of process;
- Types of outcomes;
Suitable number of participants.
Many processes are only effective for a limited group of people such as methods of deliberation, which require a lot of personal interaction and reflection. There are also situations where involving too few participants is counter-productive, for example if the approach relies on a statistically representative sample of a population.
Roles of participants. What type of participant does the method require?
Most methods have been designed with a particular sort of participant in mind. Bringing in other kinds of participants may make processes less effective. Self-selected participants (anyone who wants to join can) are appropriate at, for example, community planning workshops where the community should be engaged as widely as possible.
Demographically representative samples are selected to provide a sample of a larger population. Specific individuals can be targeted as participants in order to bring their skills, knowledge or connections into the process.
Budget: How much does a process of this type typically cost?
The literature gives overviews of costs for ‘typical’ processes. There are many reasons why it might cost more, including reliance on consultants or involving an unusual number of participants.
Length of process: How much time does this method require to be used effectively?
As a rule of thumb, to plan the use of a method properly one should allow at least twice as much time as the method itself requires, although for processes running over many years this is not necessarily the case.
Types of outcomes that the method can produce.
The type of outcomes required should influence the choice of method: Some methods are good for discovering existing opinions about an issue;
- Methods that involve deliberation usually lead to the creation of better informed opinions;
- Some methods are better than others at revealing common interests and thereby improving relationships;
- Some methods are good for creating a shared vision, which is especially important within organisations or where you want to build community cohesion;
- Some methods are also excellent at producing new ideas and visions for change;
- Some methods empower participants by giving them skills and/or confidence to take a more active part in decision-making.
But consider: a method that involves a small and unrepresentative group of participants should not be used for decision making because it will not have a mandate.
Taken from: People & Participation How to put citizens at the heart of decision-making, Involve 2005, http://www.involving.org