Characterizing Collaborative Participation — 9 Comments

  1. Excellent study! Thank you for putting this whole area of public participation in perspective.

    In terms of further research, we wrote a blog comparing a number of public participation software alternatives against the IAPP spectrum:

    Note that e-Deliberation provides a platform for collaborative deliberation. The process has a number of variants, and these map out to most of the higher end categories you show in the schema of collaborative participation.

  2. The Participation Schemas sounds like an interesting approach. Would love to see in a bit more detail how it is applied.

    One note:

    While they may look similar, the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation and Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation are actually quite different and probably shouldn’t be compared side-by-side. Specifically, the IAP2 Spectrum (which is intentionally laid out in horizontal form, not hierarchically as a ladder) should not be read as a simplification of Arnstein’s ladder.

    For more on the history of the Spectrum, see this post by one of the people involved in its creation:

    • Dear Tim,
      The “Participation Schemas” have not been used to analyse real cases; we just applied them informally to some cases, to validate its potential.
      In fact… we are still starting the disseminating of the model in this blog, and we plan to publish several additional posts that will provide much more detail.
      We would like to create, additionally, a web service that would allow anybody to enter the relevant data (and the justification for it) and have the Schema generated. This way, it would be easier for people to use, test and improve the model. But so far I haven’t found any support, funding or time to do it, so… it will take time.
      Both the web-service and the very “conceptual model” are to be realeased as “alpha” tools :-), which the communities of practitioners and researchers will hopefully keep discussing and improving.

      • Regarding IAP2 spectrum [1], I am aware that it was constructed with the intention to overcome many of the limitations of Arnstein’s model [2] (more about this in the next posts and [3]).
        The decision to knock the stair over aimed to emphasize, as you say, that each of the Spectrum’s levels has a legitimate purpose, something that Arnstein failed to recognize. But even laid horizontal it remained a “stair”, because the model includes an arrow indicating the “Increasing Level of Public Impact”. Moreover, the similarities between their levels are much more than casual; they are substantial and derive from their very definitions.
        While Arnstein was too normative and negative (naming “placation” something that could be better described as “advise”), IAP2 model seems to me too uncritical. To speak of ‘citizen participation’ without a mention to ‘manipulation’ is like speaking about ‘politics’ but avoid mentioning ‘corruption’: you cannot really understand participation without seriously delving into manipulation.
        So… while the differences must be recognized, I think it is justified to compare and link both models.

        [3] (Spanish)

        • The problem I have with Arnstein’s model is that it conflates level of impact with ethical soundness, meaning operating at lower levels of impact implies ethically questionable behavior on part of the decision maker (“Tokenism”).

          According to some of the founding members I’ve talked to, one of the very reasons that led to the creation of IAP2 (or IAP3, as was its name then) was a general frustration regarding the widespread lack of ethics and professional standards in the area of public participation.

          That’s why they created two other documents along with the Spectrum:

          IAP2’s Code of Ethics for Public Participation Practitioners

          IAP2 Core Values of Public Participation

          Would love to hear if that sufficiently addresses the point you were making. 😉

          By the way, in he spirit of full disclosure: I serve on the Board of IAP2 USA (but I’m sure you knew that anyway).

          Good discussion!

          • Good discussion, indeed!

            I am Happy to have attracted IAP2 attention. Hope you will be able to disseminate the good parts of the “Participation Schemas” to your members.

            I know the Code of Ethics and the Core Values. They are very valuable conceptual documents which certainly provide a wider context for the Spectrum. All together evidence that IAP2’s approach is not shallow but rather deep, despite its focus on highlighting the potential of good participation practices rather than exposing the failures of standard practices.

            The problem is that most people applying IAP2’s Spectrum consider it in isolation and, as such, the typology provided by the Spectrum lacks enough detail to satisfactorily describe the nuances of Public Participation, as it is not really exhaustive nor fully consistent.

            While Arnstein’s model is, as you suggest, extremely naïve in considering ‘false participation’ everything but the ‘surrender of the power to the citizens’, the Spectrum seems to me a little naïve in presenting everything as positive.

            The Spectrum gives public authorities confort, as all of them can claim: “Ey, I am satisfactorily covering three levels, and a little of the fourth! That’s a lot!!” even when they are doing nothing but manipulative participation.

  3. Pingback: On the road to Lórien - Participation Schemas: Dimension HOW and final considerations

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