Sherry Arnstein

Sherry Arnstein, writing in 1969 about citizen involvement in planning processes in the United States, described a ladder of participation. (see below for more on Sherry Arnstein)

(Arnstein, Sherry R. "A Ladder of Citizen Participation," Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224. Available online here. Blog item here.

1 Manipulation and 2 Therapy. Both are non participative. The aim is to cure or educate the participants. The proposed plan is best and the job of participation is to achieve public support by public relations.

3 Informing. A most important first step to legitimate participation. But too frequently the emphasis is on a one way flow of information. No channel for feedback.

4 Consultation. Again a legitimate step attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public enquiries. But Arnstein still feels this is just a window dressing ritual.

5 Placation. For example, co-option of hand-picked 'worthies' onto committees. It allows citizens to advise or plan ad infinitum but retains for power holders the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.

6 Partnership. Power is in fact redistributed through negotiation between citizens and power holders. Planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared e.g. through joint committees.

7 Delegated power. Citizens holding a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated powers to make decisions. Public now has the power to assure accountability of the programme to them.

8 Citizen Control. Have-nots handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme e.g. neighbourhood corporation with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds.

Sadly Sherry Arnistein died in January 1997

Sherry R. Arnstein, former Executive Director of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, died at home in Washington D.C. on January 19, 1997 after losing her fight with breast cancer.

She served the organization and it's osteopathic medical schools for over a decade taking the Maryland based national association through the many changes that affected medical education and healthcare during that time.

After moving to Washington D.C. from California she served as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, where she planned a federal strategy to desegregate the nation's hospitals. She led an integrated team to the South in 1963 to test compliance techniques and later trained other team leaders.

Her landmark analysis, published as a "Ladder of Citizen Participation", has been reprinted more that 80 times and has been translated into several foreign languages.

She served several years with Arthur D. Little Inc. as a consulting public policy analyst and project manager and shifted to the emerging field of technology assessment, especially as it applied to health care. She was the senior author of "Perspectives on Technology Assessment" (1975).

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Prepared by David Wilcox November 16 1998