This A-Z covers both topics
about participation, and techniques which can be used along
the way. Because the field is wide, the entries vary, for
- Some entries are
self-contained, others are signposts to more detailed
sections or further reading.
- Some techniques relate
to the general question of how to approach participation,
others deal with situation further down the process when
a group or groups are acting together.
Generally the items are
written for someone who is starting or managing a
participation process, although some should be helpful for
anyone seeking to develop groups or organisations. I haven't
finished making all the links yet, but I hope it isn't too
difficult to navigate. Any suggestions welcome.
Section A-D below... on to
If you aim to ensure all
sections of the community can be involved in meetings check
these possible barriers to participation:
- Timing. Is this
- Place. Do people feel
comfortable about the venue?
- Child care
responsibilities. Should a crèche be
- Age. Should you go to
meet children, young people, older people at schools,
clubs etc. - rather than expect them to come to your
- Formality and literacy.
Will people be put off by the style of meetings and
expectation of high levels of literacy and
- Cultural/racial issues.
Should literature be translated? What cultural factors
might be relevant to the timing and place of meetings,
and provision of refreshments?
- Disability. Is the
building accessible to people with disabilities? Should a
signer be provided at meetings?
- Poverty. Should expenses
be paid in some instances? Can you reassure people they
won't asked to put their hands in their
Access is more than making
it easy to meet or understand materials. For example do
`community leaders' reflect the interests of those they may
claim to represent?
Source Christine Flecknoe.
See also Cliques, Equal opportunities, Listening, Special
Events, Starting where people are at.
The lowest level of
Government is the individual.
As people become involved and take a lead during
participation processes, there may be questions about who
they represent - and to whom they are accountable. Being
accountable in an organisation means being answerable to
those who give authority or responsibility - more senior
staff, a management committee, members or perhaps
When there is no formal organisational structure,
accountability issues may be handled by clarifying roles and
setting up temporary structures when you need to make
decisions and take action. This a key issue for the
practitioner managing a participation process.
In order to clarify your
- Who can stop you doing
something - or whose permission do you have to ask, and
- How would you describe
the part you are playing?
- Who will be affected by
your actions, and what is their attitude likely to
- What authority do you
feel other people should have in order to make decisions
and take action?
See also CATWOE,
Leadership, Role of the practitioner,
The level of
participation of Acting Together may involve short-term
collaboration or forming more permanent partnerships with
other interests. It is appropriate:
When one party cannot achieve what they want on their
The various interests involved all get some extra benefit
from Acting Together.
There is commitment to the time and effort needed to develop
Choose a different level if:
- One party holds all the
power and resources and uses this to impose its own
solutions (consider Information or
- The commitment to
partnership is only skin deep (consider Information or
- People want to have a
say in making decisions, but not a long term stake in
carrying out solutions (consider Deciding
See the section on
Where do you stand? for more
Ideas won't keep,
something must be done about them. Alfred North
Action plans provide the answer to the question 'what do we
do next?' They are 'to do' lists covering the what, who and
when of next steps, and should be the result of workshops or
other meetings where you make decisions during a
After meetings draw up an
action plan showing:
- The action or task (what
are we trying to do).
- What has to be done
first and by when.
- What has to be done
second, third etc.
- Who is
- What resources of
information, money, equipment, etc. may be
- How will you know you
have achieved it - the criteria for success.
Action Deadline Responsibility Resources Success criteria
1st task By when? By whom? Money, tools? OK because?
2nd task By when? By whom? Money, tools? OK because?
Source Brian Batson .
It is a general error to
imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the
most anxious for its welfare.
Activists are people who are actively involved in projects
in their community, perhaps as volunteer workers or members
of committees. Without their commitment little would be
achieved. However, participation processes limited only to
activists are unlikely to be representative or 'empowering':
it is those who are not activists who need greatest support
to become involved and achieve what they want.
See also Access, Cliques, Community leaders,
I must create a system,
or be enslaved by another man's. William Blake
Blake probably had something grander in mind than filling a
filing cabinet, but the principle applies. If you are
working with any organisational structure, whether temporary
of permanent, during the participation process you will need
an administrative system which will involve some or all of
- A card index box or
database for contacts.
- A diary.
- Correspondence between
members of the group, officials, funders, consultants
- Minutes of meetings and
- Plans and
- A filing
Without some sort of system
you can't find the information you need, maintain agreement
on what has been agreed, work effectively with other
See also Information systems
Advertising is what you
do when you can't go to see somebody. Fairfax Cone
The best ad is a good product. Alan H. Meyer
The advantage of advertising when seeking to inform or
involve people is that you completely control what and when
your message appears. In addition a community newspaper will
be grateful for revenue from advertising, and it opens up
more local contacts.
The task of producing an effective advertisement will
certainly help clarify what you are trying to achieve.
On the other hand advertisements, on their own, can appear
over-formal and inflexible and are best used with other
See also Communication, Media, Networking.
It might be termed the
Law of Triviality. Briefly stated, it means that the time
spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse
proportion to the sum involved. C. Northcote
The agenda tells everyone what is to be discussed at a
meeting. It may also be used to describe the course of
action someone is planning, but not disclosing - the hidden
agenda. If you suspect that is the case, the key question is
'What are we trying to achieve?'.
In order to decide as a
group what to cover in a meeting and, hopefully, disprove
1 Prepare large pieces of paper labelled 'Content',
'Format', 'Practical details'.
2 Ask everyone to write items on Post-it notes and stick
them to the appropriate sheet. Use prompts like:
- What wouldn't you like
missed from the meeting?
- How will we run the
discussion and make decisions?
- What items require most
Will we need refreshments, a
3 Discuss the items and develop a consensus. Draw up the
agenda, and keep the charts to check back after the meeting
that people's expectations where met.
See also Aims and objectives, Outcomes.
'Would you tell me
please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, '
said the cat.
'I don't much care where -', said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go', said the cat.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.
Aims are a written description of what a group or
organisation is trying to achieve, and the objectives are
the methods by which they may do that. Aims and objectives
are equally important in participation process: without them
you don't know where you will end up. In dealing with group
aims and objectives, don't forget that people have personal
aims - making new friends, getting out of the house,
developing new skills - and it is important to acknowledge
Clarifying aims and
In order to clarify aims and
objectives within a group:
1 Ask each group member to write a short statement
completing the sentence 'this organisation exists to ...',
read them out and record them on a chart.
2 Discuss differences and agree a joint statement.
3 Break the agreed aim is into components and develop ideas
for achieving each of these. Find common themes - these are
the objectives or goals.
4 List what could be done to achieve each objective - the
5 Prioritise these and turn them into an action plan stating
exactly what will be done by when.
Summarised from Getting Organised. The book Planning
Together provides detailed advice on clarifying aims and
planning group activity.
See also Mission, Purpose, Vision.
It is well worth investing
time with people who:
- Can provide personal
support and act as a sounding board.
- Have experience of
participation you can draw on.
- Can offer specialist
knowledge and advice.
- Know the area
You may find allies among,
for example, local groups, voluntary organisations, local
councillors, colleges or universities running relevant
Source Christine Flecknoe.
See also Community, research,
Being able to say 'it's like
so and so' is a useful way of helping people understand what
you are getting at, because you are then sharing the same
'mental map'. ('Mental map' is itself an analogy). Many of
the quotations in this guide work through analogy or
metaphor. Analogies may also be helpful in understanding a
participation process, for example:
- Sport. Is it a level
playing field for all involved? What are the rules? Who
are the players and who are the spectators?
- A journey. Where are we
now? Where are we trying to get to? What are the
- Cooking. What are the
recipes for success? Are you running a restaurant - or
helping people cook for themselves?
See also Process as a
What makes life dreary is
want of motive. George Eliot.
Apathy is the state of those people who don't want to get
involved in what you are offering. Are they apathetic - or
perhaps just not interested in the same issues you are?
People have a right to decide their own interests and
purpose, and their own level of participation. There's a
fine line between creating awareness and telling people what
they should have or do. What appears to be apathy may also
be anxiety about becoming involved in something new and
See also Access, Awareness, Barriers to participation,
Commitment, Empowerment, Level of participation, Ownership,
There is much truth in the
suggestion, which I have often heard, that effective
participation is more about approach than technique. If you
put yourself in other people's shoes, start where they are
at, are open and honest, and avoid jargon, you should go a
long way to gain people's involvement. On the other hand all
the techniques in the world will not overcome distrust and
antipathy caused by a `we know best' approach.
See also Attitudes.
One of the first things to
do in the early stages of a participation process is take
stock of yourself and the situation. A good way to do this
is to run a SWOT analysis and to do a Stakeholder analysis.
More formally you may wish to undertake Community profiling,
See also Parish Maps and Village
Belief is harder to shake
than knowledge. Adolph Hitler.
Some of the main barriers to participation lie in the
attitudes people bring to the process. Residents may lack
confidence or feel action is not their responsibility.
Officials may see getting the job done quickly as a top
priority, even if it doesn't meet the needs of all
concerned. Councillors may feel their power is eroded by
sharing decision making with local people. Some of these
attitudes are deeply rooted in people's self esteem or
concerns about status, and will only change through a long
process of personal development.
Techniques which draw out the underlying concerns and
priorities of the different interests may help.
See also Change, Commitment , Ownership and
For people to become
involved in any process or project they need to be aware it
is happening, see some benefit or relevance to themselves,
and feel confident about their role. The three are closely
linked - attempts to raise people's awareness will be more
successful if they start by considering the interests of the
audience, and what will be a comfortable way for people to
respond. Start where people are - value their knowledge and
experience. Advertising, leaflets, videos and
exhibitions all have a part to play. Networking
and personal contact may be more effective, particularly
used with workshops techniques. Newcastle Architecture
Workshop has produced a techniques pack Awareness Through
See also Parish Maps, Starting where people are at,
and Village Appraisals.
When 10 people turn up to a
public meeting which has been advertised for weeks the
organisers blame apathy. However, people may be reluctant to
get involved for all sorts of reasons:
- Anxiety about what sort
of meeting it will be
- Feeling they wouldn't be
effective in any programme anyway
- Not wanting to
- Experience of
The book Limbering Up
offers a more detailed study of barriers. A good way to
start planning a participation process is to throw up all
the possible barriers you can think of, then work out how to
See also Access, Equal opportunities.
The benefits - and problems
- of participation will be seen differently by the various
interests involved. However, the general benefits often
- People who feel they
have a say are more likely to be positive about
- Fresh ideas may
- You may get help in kind
or other resources.
- People are far more
likely to be part of a long-term solution if they have
some ownership of the early ideas.
- Involvement on one
project or programme builds understand, trust and
confidence which may be important on other
Besides these benefits of a
better 'product' or outcome are the 'process' issues of
helping develop people's confidence and skills. Benefits are
most likely for all concerned when:
- The main interests agree
on the appropriate level of participation.
- There is a common
language to discuss issues and develop ideas.
- Appropriate methods are
used to get as much agreement as possible on desired
See also Capacity
up and top down
A term frequently used to
distinguish change or activity among community interests
(bottom up) from that in government (top down). Effective
participation is likely to require both.
Brainstorming is one of the
most widely used - and misused - aids to creative thinking.
It was devised during the 1930s by Alex Gordon, working in
an advertising agency in New York, and is defined as 'a
means of getting a large number of ideas from a group of
people in a short time'. It should not be used as a label
for any loosely-structured session where a group rambles
around a problem in the hope of striking a solution. The
guidelines for brainstorming are:
- Suspend judgement -
don't censor ideas.
- Free-wheel to drift
around the problem.
- Aim for quantity of
ideas regardless of quality.
- Cross-fertilise between
After you have defined the
problem or question follow these steps. A group of more than
five and less than 20 is best:
- Throw up every idea you
can. Don't discuss the ideas and don't reject any - even
if they are far-fetched.
- As the ideas come up
record them on a list everyone can see. One idea may
spark off another.
- When the ideas have
dried up, cross off those everyone agrees are
- Look for common themes
and possible solutions.
- Draw up an action plan,
or use one of the other techniques to help clarify what
to do next e.g. SAST , Strategic
See also Nominal Group
Technique which offers an alternative to
takes time and money. The resources you need will depend on
the level of participation. You may need funds or help in
- Communication materials
- anything from leaflets to a video or
- Meetings and workshops,
perhaps including the cost of a facilitator.
- The costs of an
on-the-ground presence, perhaps a temporary office or
- Start up costs if you
are setting up a new organisation.
Any organisation created
during a participation process which aims to keep going in
the long term needs a business or development plan. For a
voluntary or non-profit organisation the plan will balance
the costs and income of three parts of its operation: the
projects, products or services provided by the organisation;
the core staff, premises and equipment; and any fund
raising. The business plan should cover at least three years
and show how fund raising and any income earned covers the
Although campaigns may bring
to mind banner-waving protesters, the term is also used to
describe `any programme or series of actions instituted by
one group of people with the aim of achieving a change in
resources, or in the form of an organisation, or in a
decision-making process, over which another group or groups
of people have considerable control' when this is a
bottom-up process (Christine Flecknoe).
A campaign by local people to create, for example, a
playground, could involve information-gathering, surveys,
public meetings, exhibitions, festivals, lobbying, meetings
with officials and many other activities. Campaigns are
dynamic - they respond to events. As such they cannot be
steered `top-down.' If you are initiating a participating
process you may have to deal with campaigns which target
your own organisation. If that feels uncomfortable,
- Is your stance
appropriate? People may feel they should have more
- Are you clear about your
role? Are you wearing too many hats: go-between,
facilitator at meetings, someone who controls
- Have you spent enough
time working through issues within your
See also Role of the
I hear and I forget. I
see and I remember. I do and I understand. Chinese
Capacity-building is training and other methods to help
people develop the confidence and skills necessary for them
to achieve their purpose. The capacity people need depends
both on their abilities and on the situation they face. You
may feel capable of tackling one thing, yet feel completely
differently about another task. For example, parents of
young children campaigning for a play group might feel
ill-equipped to write a technical report to a council
committee. But how many chief executives could run a
children's tea party? The most effective capacity building
is likely to be through 'learning by doing' rather than
formal training courses.
In order to explore where a
group lacks confidence and skills ask members to:
1 Write down what they would like to do but don't feel up
2 Explain why they want to do it, and why they don't feel up
3 Write down the opposite of the reasons
4 Consider what would help them start feeling any of these
5 Think of some practical actions they might take
Summarised from Limbering Up, Exercise 11.
See also Confidence, Skills audit.
A case study is a structured
description of a project or organisation. If you are
considering creating an organisation as part of a
participation process, reading case studies of other
projects may give you ideas for your own, although
similarities are often difficult to see unless the case
study is 'unpacked' around key issues. One way to clarify
what you are trying to achieve is to try and write a case
study of your own project as it might appear in a few years
time. The checklist give you a possible structure for
- Name, address,
- Area of operation and
date of formation.
- Aims and
- Legal status, management
- Source of funds for
projects and core costs and turnover.
- Products, services,
- Outcome measures and
summary of major achievements.
- Relationships with other
CATWOE is a mnemonic from
Operational Research which helps clarify a situation or
review what is happening during a process:
1 Use CATWOE to help
identify the different elements:
- Customers - who
are the victims/beneficiaries of the
- Actors- who does
- Transformations -
what things change as a result of the activities and what
do they change into?
- World View- what
views of the purpose of the activities are
- Owners- who can
stop the activities?
- Environment -
what constraints (rules, roles, outside bodies, etc.)
exist which might restrict the activities?
2 Brainstorm lists on
charts under each of the headings.
3 Use the lists under Customers, Actors, Owners and
elements of the Environment as a start for stakeholder
4 Use Transformations to prompt further thinking
about information and resource needs, monitoring and
5 Use World View to identify groups of stakeholders,
and to start discussion of Building an image.
6 Use Owners and Environment as a start to thinking
Source Charles Ritchie
The reasonable man adapts
himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in
trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress
depends upon the unreasonable man. George Bernard
Change is at the heart of all processes of participation and
partnership. It is more of a balance of changing the world
and changing yourself than Shaw professes. For
- Changing one's attitudes
in order to see the other person's point of
- Developing new
- The physical and
organisation change of developing a project.
Many of the techniques
featured in this guide are tools for change.
Many problems in
participation processes arise because front-line staff are
not backed up by colleagues in their organisation. However,
any strategy for change will need the commitment of
top-level management, co-ordination, and communication both
inside and outside the authority. Change is likely to
produce resistance, and it is easy to blame 'the community'
for problems which lie elsewhere.
See the sections It takes time , Guidelines on how
to..., and Change in organisations.
See also Force field analysis.
This is an organisational
structure which combines the advantages of a company (clear
structure, limited liability) with charitable status (tax
and fund-raising benefits). The appropriate legal form is a
company limited by guarantee, where the members of the Board
are not paid, and the objects are charitable. There are
disadvantages of charitable status - see below.
See also Charitable status, Companies.
If an organisation is being
created as part of the participation process, the issue of
whether to seek charitable status may arise. A charity is
not a particular form of organisation, different from a
company or community group. Both may be charities, if they
are accepted and registered as such by the Charity
Commissioners. (In Scotland and Northern Ireland
registration is directly with the Inland Revenue.)
To be registered as a charity an organisation must restrict
its activities exclusively to one or more of the following
- The relief of
- The advancement of
- The advancement of
- Other purposes
beneficial to the community.
The benefits of charitable
status include exemption from corporation tax, capital
gains, capital transfer tax, and at least 50% of the
business rate or council tax. The VAT concessions are
Charitable status adds credibility to an organisation and
enables it to apply to large charities for funding. In
general charities can only make gifts to other charities.
The greatest disadvantage of charitable status is that it
restricts the political and campaigning activity of an
organisation. On another front, if any income generating
activity is not directly in support of the organisation's
charitable objects it may be necessary to create an
associated trading company. The National
Council for Voluntary Organisations provides advice on
These may be flip charts -
pads of large paper used with an easel - or simply lining
paper tacked to the wall. Either way they are essential for
creative thinking in groups. Committees need agendas and
minutes - workshops need charts. In using charts:
- Use blutack or some
other method to stick charts up as you write them, so
people can see early work.
- Offer the pen to others
in the group.
- Don't lose the work at
the end of the session. Taking photographs of the charts
is an easy way of keeping a record.
Checklists are used in two
ways in this guide: to help analyse problem areas and to
list action which may be appropriate. If the checklist
approach appeals to you may enjoy Derek Rowntree's 'The
Manager's book of checklists.
Twenty per cent of the
people in volunteer groups do ninety per cent of the work.
The Diamond of Psi Upsilon
A clique is a small number of people seen by others to be
acting together to exclude them from discussion or
decisions. The members of the clique may see themselves as
over-worked and the only ones who care about the group or
Whoever is right (and it may be both), cliques can be a
significant barriers to wider involvement. The clique would
benefit from delegation and recruitment of other people to
help. It may be possible to raise these issues at the
start of a new project or participation process, run some
workshops, and develop a new working group or steering
See items on the above issues for further
Commitment is the opposite
of apathy, and is most likely when people can see some point
in being involved. A cynical view is that people become
interested when you can answer the question: What's in it
for me? However, people do become involved for a wide range
of reasons which go beyond personal gain - for example
sociability, and feeling they are doing something
worthwhile. The only way you can discover people's interests
is by talking to them - which means networking and running
workshops. Surveys may give you some starting points, but
you won't gain people's commitment by quoting statistics at
them. Before seeking commitment from community interests it
is important to ensure you have the internal commitment of
colleagues within your own organisation. This is dealt with
at more length in the section It takes
See also Apathy, Attitudes, Networking, Ownership,
What is a committee? A
group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the
unnecessary. Richard Harkness.
A camel is a horse designed by a committee. Anon
Committees are meetings with an order of business (the
agenda) some agreed procedures and officers (chair,
secretary) and records (minutes). They range from management
committees, acting as a governing body, to sub-committees
that may meet as and when necessary. Committees are
necessary to make formal decisions, but they are not
appropriate for more creative activities like brainstorming,
which are best done in focus groups and workshops. The
committee may simply take time out to break into small
groups. It may be appropriate to follow a substantial
creative session with a more formal committee meeting to
endorse the action plan.
In order to improve your
committee meetings, get members to agree to:
- Read papers beforehand
and bring them to the meeting.
- Check what they don't
understand and find out any background.
- Turn up at the right
- Stick to the
- Listen to other people
and consider their views.
- Think before
- Seek decisions on which
all can agree.
- Record what needs to be
- Read the action minutes
and take any action necessary.
- Report back on action
See other items on the
issues mentioned for further discussion.
The two words
'information' and 'communication' are often used
interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.
Information is giving out; communication is getting through.
Sydney J. Harris
Communication should be seen as a two-way process of sending
and receiving messages, and as such the basis for all
Effective communication involves considering how your
message will be received as well as how you send it: the
meaning of any communication is the response you get. This
meaning is influenced by how people see and judge you -
their attitude - as well as the content of your message and
the method you use. For that reason face to face may be more
effective than glossy brochures or videos.
The obvious barriers to communication are:
- Lack of clarity about
what you want to get across.
- Hostility to you or your
- Lack of credibility in
the message or the person giving it.
In planning your
communication, have you:
- Clarified what you want
to get across?
- Identified your
audience, and their likely interests?
- Considered what response
you want ?
- Reviewed what materials,
events or media would be most appropriate?
- Planned how to deal with
See also Special events,
Media, Presentations, Print, Vision.
Do not do unto others as
you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not
be the same. George Bernard Shaw
Community is a term so widely applied that it is in danger
of losing any meaning, like 'members of the public'. Aren't
we all? At worst it may be used by officials to mean anyone
who is not 'us' - an undifferentiated mass of activists,
organisations and uninvolved residents. Marilyn Taylor, in
Signposts to Community Development, suggests it is
more useful to think of a large number of over-lapping
communities distinguished by the characteristics of their
members, and the common interests which tie members together
and give these characteristics a shared significance.
The characteristics might be, for example:
- Personal (age, gender,
- Services provided or
Common characteristics do
not necessarily mean people identify with each other as a
community. The factors which give these characteristics a
shared meaning are a cultural heritage, social
relationships, common economic interests, or the basis for
political power. Communities may be short or long term.
Because individuals may belong to many different communities
at the same time, different allegiances may people pull in
different directions. There are likely to be competing and
conflicting interests within communities.
See also items below and Research,
architecture and planning
Professionals working within
community architecture and planning apply community
development methods in the built environment. They
often work from or with community technical aid centres and
see the community group or organisation as their client,
even though they may be funded from charitable or public
For typical techniques see Design Games and Planning for
Real. Newcastle Architecture Workshop has produced a
techniques pack Awareness Through to
Businesses and Co-operatives
These are trading
organisations which aim to combine local control, the
creation of viable jobs for local people and financial
sustainability. Community coops are controlled by the
workers, community businesses are likely to have community
representation on their management committees.
Community development is
concerned with change and growth - with giving people more
power over the changes that are taking place around them,
the policies that affect them and the services they use.
(Marilyn Taylor, Signposts to Community Development).
As such it is relevant to all levels of participation. It
seeks to 'enable individuals and communities to grow and
change according to their own needs and priorities'
(Standing Conference on Community Development) rather than
those dictated by circumstances beyond their boundaries. It
works through bringing people together to 'share skills,
knowledge and experience.'
See also Community development methods.
The methods used within
community development will be particularly relevant
to participation processes which seek to empower community
interests. Marilyn Taylor in Signposts to Community
Development lists the following main methods:
- Profiling and policy
analysis. Developing a community profile and analysing
policies - local, national, international - as they
effect the community.
- Capacity building:
training people in the skills that they need to achieve
- Organising by building
sustainable and accessible organisations around issues
that are defined by the community as
- Networking to build
links between organisations where this can help to
- Resourcing groups by
linking them to outside resources and
- Negotiating to encourage
service providers to adopt a community development
approach, and assist people and groups in the community
in their relationships with service providers and policy
A community forum is regular
meeting of community activists and interest groups which may
also involve local business, political, religious and social
organisations. It may be useful for discussion of issues of
concern to local interests, and for stimulating contacts and
networking. A forum is not so good for turning discussion
into action, where some complementary 'do it' organisation
like a Development Trust may be needed.
Setting up a community
If you are setting up a
- Ensure membership is as
wide as possible, and avoid domination by any one
- Consider splitting
meetings into small groups and using workshop techniques
so people have more chance to contribute.
- Seek an independent
- Make any servicing of
the forum - developing agendas, recording discussion - as
independent as possible.
- Don't make the forum the
only channel for consultation or
See also Networking,
A project or organisation
where the impetus and control lies with community interests.
Examples of organisations are community businesses and
community co-operatives. Organisations like community
technical aid centres, community trusts and development
trusts may aim to serve community interests, but be
controlled by governing bodies with a mix of community,
public and private sector representation. Rather than
attempting to categorise organisations as 'community' or not
solely on the basis of membership, it may be useful to
- What is the organisation
seeking to achieve, and who sets those
- Who benefits from its
- Where does the money
- Where does control
The term 'community leaders'
has been favoured by some politicians perhaps unwilling to
come to terms with the range and complexity of interests
within any community. It is much easier to think there are a
few people to talk to than engage in complex participation
processes. But to challenge that idea doesn't mean that
individuals within any community of interest cannot take a
See also Accountability, Activists, Community,
Operational research, or OR,
has been used extensively in large commercial, industrial
and service enterprises to assist problem solving and
decision making. Community OR is different from traditional
OR in style rather than content, in that it works with
groups that usually have participative decision-making, a
general suspicion of experts and need to operate on small
budgets and voluntary time. For OR techniques which have
been used with community and voluntary groups see SAST, SSM,
Strategic choice. Contact the Community Operational Research
Unit for further information.
This technique is based on
the Urban Design Assistance Teams which originated in the
United States. A multi-disciplinary team of professionals,
community representatives and statutory authorities come
together for several days to develop a strategy or master
plan for an area. If well planned there will be:
- Considerable preparation
through research, surveys and workshops with interested
- Site visits.
- Facilitated workshops
using a range of techniques during the
- A report covering
physical design, finance, organisational structure and
- Arrangements for public
report backs and further community
Community profiling is a
social, environmental and economic description of an area
which is used to inform local decision-making. The pack
produced by the School for Advanced Urban Studies offers a
10-step approach which deals with how to form a group to
undertake the profile, gather and analyse data, present it,
and use the results for planning action.
See also Parish Maps, Village Appraisals.
technical aid centres
Community technical aid
centres are non-profit-distributing organisations that offer
design, planning and other professional services to
community groups. They take a community development
approach, and some are controlled by their user groups. The
Association of Community Technical Aid Centres will provide
Community Trusts are
independent fund-raising and grant-making charitable trusts
which serve a specific geographical area. If there is one in
your area, they may be a useful source of information about
community needs in the area, and may support community
initiatives. Community trusts raise funds from a wide range
of sources, especially those previously untapped, with the
aim of establishing an endowment fund. Interest from this
large sum of capital is used for grant-making in the area.
Community Trusts should not be confused with community
development trusts (see Development trusts) which are geared
towards economic and environmental practical action. The
Association for Community trusts and Foundations will
provide more information.
A particular form of
company, the company limited by guarantee, is increasingly
popular as an organisational structure for larger community
initiatives and partnerships. Companies limited by guarantee
do not have shareholders - instead their members agree to
pay a nominal sum, often only [[sterling]]1,
if the company fails. The rights of these members to appoint
members of the governing body - the Board - are defined by
the constitution - the Memorandum and Articles of
Association. The company does not distribute surpluses as
profits, but reinvests them in the company. If the members
of the Board are unpaid, and the company has appropriate
objects, it can seek charitable status. Development Trusts
are usually companies limited by guarantee, as are many
voluntary organisations. Companies limited by guarantee are
also appropriate for partnership organisations with Board
representatives from public, private and community sectors.
See Voluntary but Not Amateur, and Just About
Managing? for more information on companies.
See also Constitution.
Being competent means being
able to say 'I know' and 'I can'. There is a sophisticated
system of National Vocational Qualifications which
classifies the competences appropriate to different jobs.
Less formally you can consider what competences will be
needed for any project or organisation you may be
developing, both as a whole and for each role involved. Then
carry out a skills audit to find how far you have the
capacity to do what's needed.
See also Capacity-building, Roles.
They are able who think
they are able. Virgil.
One of the major barriers to people's involvement is lack of
confidence in joining in activities, groups or organisations
which may be unfamiliar. In order to help:
- Suggest that people who
are already involved bring along people they
- Run social events where
people can get to know each other.
- If you must have formal
public meetings run them towards the end of a process -
otherwise they can be intimidating.
- Concentrate on workshops
where everyone can have a say.
- Carry out a skills and
experience audits to help people understand they have
more capabilities that they may have thought.
- Tackle some projects
which enable people to use their skills and provide early
One fifth of the people
are against everything all the time.
Robert F. Kennedy.
Within any participation process there are likely to be
conflicts because of people's underlying attitudes, the
outcomes they are seeking, and the values they hold. The
processes to resolve conflicts include consensus building,
mediation and negotiation.
Resource Manual for a Living Revolution suggests that
for successful conflict resolution the following elements
seem to be necessary:
- Enough time to deal with
- Defining the problem in
terms which are clear and acceptable to all.
- Dealing with negative
feelings in positive ways.
- Helping people identify
in concrete terms what makes them unhappy with the
situation - distinguishing between feelings and
- For each member of the
conflict to identify their real needs.
- An opportunity for
individuals to unload feelings of hurt, fear etc. in the
presence of accepting people.
- To have at least one
person - preferably uninvolved - to give special
attention to the process.
See the books
Constructive Conflict management, Getting to Yes,
and material on the Resolve programme from the
Environment Council. See also
Consensus building is a
participation process where participants work together to
try and reach a result which has benefits for both - a
win/win outcome. It is an alternative to adversarial
confrontation where one side is trying to gain supremacy -
win/lose - or a compromise which neither side achieves what
they want - lose/lose.
The Environment Council runs a Resolve programme of
consensus building and has published an Action Pack
by Andrew Floyer Acland. The key elements of the process
- A commitment of the
parties to investing time and effort in interactive
- Involving the
participants in designing a staged process for
consensus-building - and changing it if it isn't
- Using the process to
develop relationships so the consensus is
- Exploring future needs
and interests - not taking abstract
- Helping participants
understand each other's point of view.
- Testing options for
agreement for the impact on every party.
Consensus in a
In order to help a large
group make a decision:
1 The whole group defines the problem.
2 The whole group Brainstorms possible solutions, and
identifies several for investigation.
3 The large group breaks into small groups, which review the
problem and develop more detailed solutions.
4 Report back, look for consensus, identify remaining
issues, repeat the process if necessary.
Adapted from Resource Manual for a Living
As soon as any group seeks
to take on a substantial project, it will need mechanisms
for making decisions, defining roles and possibly raising
funds and employing staff. A constitution is the document
which sets out the rules for governing any organisation. It
is necessary in order to:
- Ensure the
organisation's aims are clear and agreed by
- Provide formal
mechanisms for making decisions and resolving
- Clarify responsibilities
and ensure accountability.
- Increase credibility
- Enable the organisation
to apply for charitable status (if it wishes
- Register as a friendly
society, industrial and provident society or company
limited by guarantee.
The constitution provides a
reference for these issues - but it doesn't solve them on
its own. It can be far more productive to run some
team-building and problem solving workshops than pick over
the niceties of the constitution - provided legal
requirements are always fulfilled.
Organisations may be unincorporated, in which case they have
no separate legal existence, and are a collection of
individuals, or incorporated as a separate entity, where the
liability of individuals may be limited.
See Voluntary But Not Amateur for guidance on
constitutions. The National Council for Voluntary
Organisations provides advice.
A consultant is someone
who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and charges you
by the minute to do it.
This quotation is, of course, a completely unfair view of
consultants. Or is it? There are broadly two types of
consultants, 'expert' consultants and 'process'
Expert consultants are appropriate when you have defined a
problem which requires the application of knowledge and
skills which you don't possess and, for whatever reason,
don't wish to acquire. The success of the consultancy
depends on getting the problem right, choosing the
appropriate consultant, briefing them well, providing
information, accepting their recommendations, and being able
to put them into practice. It doesn't work if you won't take
the remedy - or what you need is more like therapy.
The process consultant is appropriate when the solution
really lies with you, but you haven't worked out what it is,
or don't have the confidence. The consultant's skill lies in
asking the right questions and getting you to think through
and apply the answers. It works if you work at it ,
and should be an empowering experience. Process consultants
often take a training approach, and can be useful in helping
design and run participation processes. Beware of any
consultants who offer quick fixes - see the section
See also Facilitation.
Consultation is the level of
participation at which people are offered some choices on
what is to happen, but are not involved in developing
additional options. It is appropriate where, for
- An authority or
organisation aims to improve a service.
- There is a clear vision
or plan for a project, and limited ways of carrying it
- Choose a different level
- indicated in brackets - if:
- Your decision won't be
changed by what people say (information).
- You are not clear what
you wish to do and are seeking ideas (Deciding
- You don't have the
resources or skills to carry out the options presented
For more detail see the
section Where do you stand?
Continuation is the final
phase of the participation process described in the section
It takes time. Activities in this phase will
depend in the level of participation. For example, in a
consultation process tasks may include analysing and
reporting back on responses; in a partnership-building
process - acting together - a new organisation may be
Control in a participation
process is determined by the extent to which any
organisation or interest group can influence the outcome of
the process. Different levels of participation reflect
different levels of control: an organisation taking an
information or consultation stance is retaining control,
while one acting with others or supporting community
initiatives will inevitably have less control. For this
reason organisations - and often politicians - will stick to
'lower' levels of participation. The disadvantages of this
- People are less likely
to become involved and to put in time, ideas and
- The controlling interest
will be expected to find all the resources.
- The process is unlikely
to increase the capacity of community interests to
undertake any projects of their own.
Instead of thinking about
control and 'power over' others, it is generally more
helpful to think about 'power to' achieve what you wish.
See also Consensus building, Empowerment, Outcomes,
A complex technique which in
a simple form can be useful as a way of deciding between
1 Develop a list options to
2 Look at the `minuses' (costs) and `pluses' (benefits) of
each option in turn.
3 List anything you don't know about each option.
+ - Don't Know
Option 3. etc. etc.,
4 If it proves difficult to decide because there are too
many 'don't knows', carry out more research. Find out who
does know, where can you find out, who can help find out.
Finding out the 'Don't knows' can be part of your action
5 If an option fits in with your 'mission' statement, give
it a plus. If it does not then why are you considering
Source Brian Batson
Creative thinking involves
developing ideas and options for action which aren't
obvious. It is best done in workshops rather than
committees. Techniques for creative thinking in this guide
include Brainstorming and Nominal Group
The way to get things
done is not to mind who gets the credit of doing them.
Organisations are usually looking for credit, particularly
if it leads to publicity to impress their funders and
members. This can, of course, cause problems if the key
parties in a participation process care more for column
inches than achieving some common purpose. As a practitioner
managing a process you are most likely to succeed if
- Try and find ways for
the different interests to achieve something of what they
- Offer events and
activities which provide benefits to participants they
could not get on their own.
- Don't try and take too
much credit yourself.
See also Commitment,
Consensus-building, Stakeholder analysis.
Criteria are the checklist
of measurements which help us decide between different
courses of action, options or projects. Typical 'hard'
criteria might be income generated, value for money, jobs
created; 'softer' criteria might include number of people
involved, increase in confidence. Which criteria you use
depends on your values.
As well as criteria for deciding between options, you will
need criteria for success or failure in achieving your
mission (purpose or vision). Is it winning, or just playing
See also Values.
At its simplest a database
is the equivalent of a card index system on computer,
holding names, address, details of publications or funding
sources which can be searched, printed for mailing, and
turned into directories. More complex databases may be used
to store and analyse survey data. The general rule for
databases is to do it on paper before trying to set anything
up on computer. Information for Action has designed database
software, called Cata-List, which is specifically designed
for easy use by community and voluntary organisations.
See also Information system.
Work expands so as to
fill the time available for its completion.
C. Northcote Parkinson.
Participation takes time, but it also needs deadlines.
Events and print are the most compelling because you have to
perform or produce for someone else. As such they are among
the most important milestones in a participation
See also Timeline, Workload planning.
Deciding together is the
level of participation at which different interests develop
options and choose from them, but one party carries out the
main actions. It is appropriate:
- When it is important
that other people `own' the solution.
- You need fresh
- There is enough
- Choose a different level
(suggestions in brackets) when:
- You have little room for
manoeuvre (consider informing or consulting).
- You can't implement
decisions yourself (consider Acting Together or
Supporting community initiatives).
Decision-making and the section Where
do you stand?
Would you tell me please,
which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said
'I don't much care where -', said Alice.
Then it doesn't matter which way you go', said the cat.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Decisions are about what to do next, and what to do in the
longer term. They are difficult enough for individuals, more
so for groups of people who may not know each other well.
Decisions are easiest if you are clear about aims and
objectives (no apologies for repeating Lewis Carroll here).
However, it is possible to make progress without a clear
sense of purpose, if you have options or ideas from which to
choose, and criteria. You can then develop an action
Difficult decisions are problems. In order to solve problems
and make decisions the following steps may be helpful -
although life is seldom as logical. The Strategic Choice
technique provides a more flexible, if complex, approach.
Topics and techniques which may help are shown in
1 Know who must be
involved (Stakeholder analysis).
2 Define the problem (Problem clarification).
3 Decide the information you need, and find it
4 Make sure everyone understands the information
5 Think of options (Brainstorming, Nominal group
6 Choose between them (Cost/benefit analysis, Kolb's
four minute evaluation cycle, For and Against, Yes or
7 If necessary gather more information and repeat
8 Make a decision about what to do (Force Field
Analysis, Solutions, Voting).
10 Assess whether the problem has been solved (Plan,
Adapted from Getting Organised and How to Solve
Delegation is important in
groups if they are to survive in the longer term. Although
most groups revolve around the enthusiasm of a few people,
unless they share the load they will burn out and/or others
will see them as a clique. To encourage
- Run workshops to share
ideas and develop action plans.
- Set up small working
groups to tackle specific tasks.
- Carry out a skills audit
to see what talent there is in the group.
Community Land and Workspace
Services have developed this modelling technique which uses
a scale plan of the site, mounted on board. Moveable pieces,
drawn to scale, are then used by the group to create their
own design. It is best used:
- When the project is
definitely going ahead.
- Where the site has
definable boundaries, and is not too large.
- Where the participants
have an intimate knowledge
- A sense of ownership
which benefits long term management and
- The process helps to
- A fairly large number of
people can be involved in a complex design
- It can help credibility
of a management committee by spreading involvement to a
Playing the design
1 Survey the site,
perhaps with residents/users, and assess the problem with
2 Investigate possibilities with the group: site
visits, slide shows of examples.
3 Brainstorm a shopping list of possible elements,
which are then drawn to scale.
4 The Main Game: the group moves pieces around on the
base board plan to create their own design.
5 A Landscape Architect draws up the results for
6 A detailed scheme developed to be built by a
contractor, by the group themselves, or a combination of the
See also Games and simulations, Planning for
Look before you leap.
Once a group has made a decision, or arrived at what seems
to be a solution, use this check before acting:
1 Ask 'Who or what could
prevent this from succeeding? ' 'What would be likely to
make that happen?'
2 Don't forget that the group itself could prevent the
solution from working. So also ask 'If we wanted to make
sure our solution fails, what would we do?'
3 Now list what the group should do to make sure that these
possible causes for failure don't happen.
From Getting Organised.
Development Trusts have been
defined as 'independent, not-for-profit organisations which
take action to renew an area physically, socially and in
spirit. They bring together the public, private and
voluntary sectors, and obtain financial and other resources
from a wide range of organisations and individuals. They
encourage substantial involvement by local people and aim to
sustain their operations at least in part by generating
revenue.' (Creating Development Trusts, HMSO
Also known as community development trusts, they should not
be confused with community trusts, which are
fund-raising and grant-making bodies.
Development Trusts operate at the 'acting together' level of
participation as partnership organisations, and are usually
companies limited by guarantee. The Development Trusts
Association will provide more information.
The term is used here for
full or part time staff devoted to the development of a
project or process, using community development methods.
Benefits of on-the-ground workers can be:
- Reaching people who
don't come to meetings.
- A source of advice and
support for local individuals and groups.
- Someone with the time to
service meetings and follow up action.
- A channel to
organisations that may provide resources.
The potential pitfalls
- The worker controls the
agenda of meetings and events.
- People who might become
involved are put off because they don't believe they can
- People do not develop
new skills and become dependent on the worker, who may
leave or change.
See also Community
development and Community development