Brian Batson wrote in
Over the past ten years
there has been a growing tendency to attempt to get the
community either individually or collectively to become
involved in the delivery of services at a local level.
The citizens charter, community care, the Housing Acts and
City Challenge all offer the community an opportunity to
play a role as either partners, providers or consumers.
However, it is seductively easy to rush into participation
that can be fraught with dangers.
Before getting involved both the service providers and the
community would do well to pause for thought. What level of
participation do we want? What are the pitfalls? What is the
best way of going about it? These are all questions that the
community and the service providers (statutory as well as
voluntary) should seek to answer before embarking on a
Too often in the past the road to participation has been
paved with good intentions only to lead up time consuming
and wasteful dead-ends which result in disillusionment and
resentment for all concerned.
Participation, like democracy, has meant many things to many
people. The opportunities for participation are there to be
grasped but only if all those involved have a common
understanding and share a common language.
This guide provides both a theoretical framework for common
understanding and a dictionary to facilitate the dialogue
that can lead to successful participation. The guide also
provides practical advice on tools and techniques that can
be used to identify blocks and find solutions.
Reflecting on my own experience of working as a local
authority community worker, a consultant and now in a new
university I can readily see how the guide could be useful
in a variety of ways and settings.
For instance, in teaching the guide could provide a starting
point to examine the whole concept of participation and the
potential pitfalls. In a consultancy/training role the guide
could be used to assist the client establish where they are
on the `map' of participation and also where they consider
the other players to be. This analysis should provide the
basis for more reasoned actions.
For the local authority officer the guide provides a
comprehensive description of the implications of
participation at whatever level. This can be immensely
useful when convincing sceptical managers and councillors
that consultation is more than just talking to people.
One of the most common arguments against community
participation is that it is costly and time consuming.
However, no-one has yet attempted to calculate the costs in
terms of time and lost good will of getting it wrong.
TQM (Total Quality Management) is based on the simple notion
that it is more cost effective to get it right first time
than correct mistakes later. This guide provides some
guidelines for TQM in participation.
The toolkit part of the pack provides a range of techniques
and tools from which organisations and individuals can
select. The tools assist in identifying blockages and
suggest ways forward.
Careful selection and application of the most appropriate
tool is an essential part of any job, but organisations
using a tool for the first time may need to seek advice. The
guide provides some signposts to further information about
the tools and their use.
The relationship between providers and customers in the
public social services is becoming an increasingly important
one. Government is pressing the case for participation and
partnership in urban regeneration. This book provides a
guide to understanding and developing that relationship.
- Brian Batson
Management in the Voluntary Sector Unit
Leeds Metropolitan University
This guide is intended for
the growing number of people who say `I believe in the idea
of community participation - but how do you do it?'
Practitioners who are asking, for example:
- How do you run a public
meeting which doesn't turn into a slanging
- When do you use surveys,
and when do you get residents on a housing estate
involved in building a model of the future they would
- How do you deal with
councillors who talk about participation, but are anxious
not to lose control or status?
- What is the difference
between consultation, participation, partnership and
The idea and funding for the
guide came from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who promote
and fund a wide range of research and development projects
that pose these types of problems.
The original aim was to provide a quick overview of
participation and then signpost readers to techniques.
However, it rapidly became clear that while there is plenty
of theory about participation, there aren't many cookbooks
easily available. In order to write the guide it was
necessary to build a theoretical framework - a signposting
system - and then summarise key topics and techniques in an
A-Z of effective participation.
Although this guide draws on
a wide range of expertise, and drafts have been read by
experienced practitioners, it hasn't been tested as a whole
in the field. All the techniques are drawn from practice,
but some come from Operational Research, some from community
development, some from commercial consultancy and training.
It is a mixed menu. I hope readers will let me know what
works well, and what needs improvement, so that I can
develop an improved later edition. See the inside front
cover for details on how to comment.
I hope it is also clear from the text that techniques -
however useful - are no substitue for the longer-term
programmes of training and support likely to be needed when
local groups take on major projects.
Who are you?
The guide is aimed mainly at
people who have the task of starting and managing
participation processes, or who control funds and other
Who am I?
I started my working life as
a journalist, mainly writing about planning, housing,
transport and development in London. For the past 15 years I
have specialised in consultancy and training for groups
setting up partnership organisations like development
trusts, and in designing national programmes to support
them. The guide reflects this background and approach rather
than, for example, social or health care.
Use of material
The guide is intended to be
a resource which groups and organisations can develop for
their own purposes, and you are free to copy and use
material in the guide for internal training. I would be
interested in any examples of this use, together with
comments and additions for a later edition.
If you would like to use the material more extensively,
please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
This guide is a compilation
of other people's ideas, brought together during development
of the guide, and from work on consultancy projects over the
past 15 years.
The suggestion for the guide, came from the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation, where Dr Janet Lewis and John Low have provided
continuing support and encouragement.
After seminars with practitioners, an editorial group of Ann
Holmes, Joan Kean, Charles Ritchie and Jerry Smith worked
with me to create the main theoretical framework for the
guide. They have provided continuing inspiration and
Charles Ritchie and Joan Kean also provided some of the
techniques, and thinking on how these could be signposted.
Brian Batson provided additional techniques and comments,
and Christine Flecknoe several of the topics. Annie
Rosewarne, Steve Skinner, Steve Trivett, and Sarah del Tufo
made helpful comments on drafts. Brian Sayer gave early
advice on the overall structure and editorial approach.
A seminar of practitioners organised by Jeff Bishop and
Geoff Caplan in Glasgow in 1993 provided valuable material
for the sections on participation processes.
My clients over the years have also helped develop this
guide. In particular, the ideas on levels of participation,
and the techniques relevant to them, were developed with Les
Robinson and and Diane Warburton for St Helen's borough
council ten years ago.
Apologies to anyone whose assistance I have not
acknowledged. Any errors are mine.
© David Wilcox. Material from this guide may be quoted
in other publications or used, with attribution, for
- David Wilcox
13 Pelham Square
Brighton BN1 4ET, UK
Telephone +44 (0)1273 677377
Fax +44 (0)1273 677377273 677379
- Published by Partnership
The Joseph Rowntree
Foundation has supported this project as part of its
programme of research and innovative development projects,
which it hopes will be of value to policy makers and
practitioners. The facts presented and views expressed in
this report, however, are those of the authors and not
necessarily those of the Foundation.