I wrote an article “Expanding ‘public participation’ in hard times” for the International Journal of Public Participation which, although it did not meet their requirements, expressed something I believe is vital for our era — an expanded vision of “public participation”.
Too often, public participation refers merely to citizen input into government decision-making. However, soaring government red ink at all levels means that governments will be able to do less and less — at least directly. Furthermore, centralized approaches cannot adequately deal with the complexity and urgency of emerging crises. These require more systemic, distributed, self-organizing approaches.
A key aspect of such approaches involves engaging the public more broadly and creatively in addressing the issues that affect their lives. Government can catalyze such engagement and increase the public’s capacity to be an effective self-organizing force. This suggests a new approach to “public participation”, one that revitalizes society as a whole.
The article below explores the rationale for this approach and various avenues for pursuing it, including specific processes that support it.
I hope you find it useful. Please share it with any colleagues involved with government and public engagement efforts, who may be interested in exploring further in such directions.