e-Participation, Participatory Budgeting… A Review of the Evidence

On the 1st of June, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in the UK published online the paper “Empowering communities to influence local decision making: A systematic review of the evidence”.

In this paper, Prof. Lawrence Pratchett and his colleagues provide evidence-based lessons on six empowerment mechanisms:

1) asset transfer
2) citizen governance
3) e-participation
4) participatory budgeting
5) petitions
6) redress

Having worked as a consultant for a short while in this project (where I learned more than I provided), I had the opportunity to glimpse how these great scholars employed top-level methodology and analytical rigor to come up with the results they are now sharing with the broader public.

Among other findings, the research shows that each of the six mechanisms can potentially – to some extent – empower the citizens participating directly in it. Nonetheless, only the citizen governance and participatory budgeting mechanisms provided “evidence of spill-over from individuals to the wider community”.

However, any reference to a main finding would be unfair, given the amount of valuable information provided by this research for academics and practitioners interested in issues related to empowerment. A full reading is well worth it.

The authors of this report raise the bar by going well beyond the general assumptions and unsubstantiated lucubrations that are, unfortunately, so common in the domain.

You can download the full-report here.

(originally posted in Facebook’s Participatory Budgeting group)

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Warren Master

I would be interested to learn the thoughts of practitioners on how such public engagement demonstrably affects trust in government (among the citizenry, the public sector workforce, and other stakeholders – e.g., the legislature, media, private sector, etc.). The Public Manager & the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) will be hosting an inter-active conference in the greater Washington metropolitan area in November 2009 with a focus on Strengthening Trust in Government: Opening Dialogues, Building Relationships. We expect to make extensive use of collaborative technologies and social networking techniques to engage the full range of communities needed to achieve this outcome. Weigh in with your ideas and expresion of interest right here on govloop or at: http://www.thepublicmanager.org or [email protected].