One of the main ideas in the Guide is that of level of participation, and that an organisation promoting participation takes a stance about the level it suggests is appropriate for different interests. This section deals with five levels.
The previous section developed the idea of levels of participation based on Arnstein's ladder described in 10 Key ideas. Here each level is dealt with in more detail, with suggestions on where it is appropriate.\ This section, as others, is written on the assumption that you are promoting or managing a participation process. Your precise role will affect what stance you take.\ \ For example, if you are controlling resources you may be very clear and firm about how much say you are prepared to offer others. If you are acting as a neutral facilitator you may be helping different interests negotiate appropriate levels.\ \ For further discussion of these issues, see Some early questions at the end of the previous section, the items on Power and Role of the practitioner *in the A-Z*\
Information-giving underpins all other levels of participation, and may be appropriate on its own in some circumstances. However, you are likely to hit problems if all you offer is information and people are expecting more involvement.
Information-only may be appropriate when:
Information-only is inappropriate when the following apply (alternative stances in brackets):
See the A-Z for methods to use with this and other levels. Consider the following:
Avoid any methods which imply that people can have a say.
In planning how to inform people, and carrying this out:
You have a low budget.\ Concentrate on using existing channels of communication: local groups, media, simple posters or leaflets. Be prepared to answer questions.\ \ The PR department of your organisation wants to take over communications.\ Insist on getting the basic messages clear before anything gets 'glossed up'. Work on one product - say a leaflet - and use that as the reference for other things. Make sure you have internal agreement to any messages.\ \ You get no response from the audience you are addressing.\ Since you are not asking people to become involved, that may be understandable. However, ask a few people to play back to you what they understood from your communication to see that you have got your message across.\ \ People want more say.\ Do they have a case? Who is setting the rules? Take comments seriously. It is easier to change the level of participation and your stance early on. Later it may become an uncomfortable U-turn.
Before taking up an information-giving stance consider:
Consultation is appropriate when you can offer people some choices on what you are going to do - but not the opportunity to develop their own ideas or participate in putting plans into action.
The consultation stance is likely to be most appropriate when:
It is inappropriate when the following apply (alternative stances in brackets):
Consider the following methods for consultation, detailed *in the A-Z*\
These methods may be used in conjunction with information-giving and presentational techniques, for example:
You have a low budget.\ Use basic information-giving methods plus meetings hosted by local organisations. Run an open meeting at the end of the process.\ \ The PR department wants to take it over.\ See information giving. Consider throughout: will people understand the options, are they realistic, can we respond to feedback.\ \ You don't have time to do things properly.\ Be honest about the deadlines, and use the time-pressure to advantage.\ \ You get more - or less - response than expected.\ Was consultation the appropriate stance? Did you think it through from the audience's point of view?
Before taking up a consultation stance consider:
Deciding together is a difficult stance because it can mean giving people the power to choose without fully sharing the responsibility for carrying decisions through.
Deciding-together may be appropriate when:
Deciding together is inappropriate when the following apply (try alternative stances in brackets).
Consider the following methods from the A-Z
You don't have the time.\ Consider whether stance 2 - consulting people - would be more appropriate.\ \ You are not sure if your colleagues will back up any decisions.\ Involve them in the process. Run internal workshops before involving others.\ \ People aren't interested in joining in.\ Spend more time on preliminary networking - basically talking to people before holding any meetings. Run sessions hosted by existing organisations as well as open sessions.\ \ The techniques look too complicated.\ Try some of the easier ones with a small group that you know. Bring in an external trainer or facilitator.
Before taking up a deciding-together stance consider:
Acting together may involve short-term collaboration or forming more permanent partnerships with other interests.
Acting together may be appropriate when:
Acting together is not likely to be appropriate when the following apply (alternative stances in brackets):
\ Consider the following methods from the A-Z:
As for Deciding together, plus…
Early discussion focuses on constitutions.\ The final structure should come last - after you have decided what you are going to do, how to get the resources, what skills you need, and how power and responsibility will be shared. Set up interim structures like a steering group with clear terms of reference.\ \ Conflicts arise in steering group meetings.\ Spend more time in workshop sessions and informal meetings to develop a shared vision and mutual understanding.\ \ Some interests feel excluded.\ Clarify who the stakeholders are, and what their legitimate interests are. Again, run workshops rather than committees. Use an independent facilitator.
Before taking up a 'acting together ' stance consider:
Supporting independent community-based initiatives means helping others develop and carry out their own plans. Resource-holders who promote this stance may, of course, put limits on what they will support.
This stance may be appropriate:
It is not likely to be appropriate when the following apply (alternative stances in brackets):
Consider the following methods from *the A-Z*\
Community interests find it difficult to get organised.\ Provide support and, if necessary training. Arrange visits to similar projects elsewhere. Treat people development as seriously as project development.\ \ The steering group or other body cannot make decisions.\ Organise workshop sessions outside formal committees.\ \ Little happens between meetings.\ End each meeting with an action planning session. If funds are available appoint a development worker. Keep in contact through a regularly produced newsletter.\ \ Community interests become committed to action, but resource-holders can't deliver.\ Run internal sessions to gain commitment within the supporting organisations. Use the media.
Before taking up a 'we will support community initiatives' stance consider: