Fact or fiction?

Dispelling common myths about public participation


  1. Home
  2. Knowledge Base
  3. Fact or fiction?

Myth 1: Engagement is too expensive

Published: March 5, 2017

This has been an often-repeated concern, but is becoming more common as budgets are cut and the impacts start to bite. It costs money to bring people together. Critics frequently portray engagement as a waste of resources, asking ‘do people want to pay for talking shops or real services?’ This, however, is a false dichotomy.…

Read more

Myth 2: Citizens aren’t up to it

Published: March 5, 2017

Distrust of the capacity of citizens runs deep in governments. Edmund Burke said that a representative would betray his constituents if he (for it was always a he back then) were to sacrifice his superior judgement to public opinion. Henry Ford famously said: “If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a…

Read more

Myth 3: Engagement only works for easy issues

Published: March 5, 2017

There are those who agree with engagement in principle but don’t think it is applicable in their particular area. Engagement is seen as being for ‘easy’ issues that are simple, close to people’s everyday lives and uncontroversial. Of course many different kinds of experts believe that their issue is off bounds, be they scientists, planners,…

Read more

Myth 4: Citizen power is a floodgate we should avoid at all costs

Published: March 5, 2017

There is a deep running fear of citizens in parts of government. Citizens are often seen as a baying mob or unruly mass. Often the metaphor that springs to mind for civil servants is that of a tidal wave of criticism and scorn, which will inevitably come crashing down if the ‘floodgates’ of active citizens…

Read more

Myth 5: Citizens don’t want to be involved, they just want good service

Published: March 5, 2017

It is sometimes suggested that engagement is a waste of time and money because citizens don’t care or are too busy to participate. In the UK, the country that is the worst offender against the working time directive, won’t increased engagement just attract the ‘usual suspects’? Let’s be realistic. We may never get a majority…

Read more