How do I plan a participatory process?

Guidance on how to develop and design a participatory process


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Introduction to planning participation

Published: February 16, 2017

Too often, discussion of participation begins and ends with identifying methods. One-off events or individual methods are an important element of participatory processes, but they are only one part. Methods have probably become the main focus for people's participatory working because they are usually the key interaction point, the 'set piece', in which institutions come…

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Scope

Published: February 16, 2017

The purpose of defining the scope of a participatory exercise is to clarify exactly what the boundaries to the exercise are - what can really be achieved in practice – and thus define an appropriate and achievable purpose. There are some basic questions to answer in defining scope: How much can really change? Establishing what…

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Purpose

Published: February 16, 2017

Establishing a clear purpose and getting agreement on it within the commissioning body is the single most important stage of any engagement process. Indeed, no participatory process should proceed without it. There are, however, good and bad purposes. A good purpose will be highly focused with clear outputs (see Section 3.4) and outcomes (see Section…

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Outputs (activities and tangible products)

Published: February 16, 2017

It is important to distinguish between the outputs and outcomes of a process. We define outputs as the tangible products of a process, such as reports, meetings and leaflets, which are useful in themselves but do not usually meet the full purpose of the process. Examples of outputs include: Information (e.g. new information created as…

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Outcomes (overall results and impacts)

Published: February 16, 2017

Outcomes are the fundamental difference that a process makes, its overall results and impacts. Outcomes are more specific than 'purpose' and are the clear statement of exactly what is sought from the process. Possible outcomes include: Improved personal and / or working relationships; Wider circle of responsibility for decisions and actions; Agreement on purpose and…

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Context

Published: February 16, 2017

A good participatory process must be well embedded within its context. A useful way to consider the context is as the landscape you are operating within. It may not be necessary to know all the details of a particular area, but you must know where you are going (the purpose), where there may be obstacles…

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Who to involve

Published: February 16, 2017

It is important to consider who to involve in a participation process. Specific questions can help to make sure no important sectors are forgotten if the purpose is to be achieved. For example: Who is directly responsible for the decisions on the issues? Who is influential in the area, community and/or organisation? Who will be…

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Final design

Published: February 16, 2017

When all the key issues have been broadly considered a detailed design will be needed for the whole participatory process. It is at this stage that the decisions about timing, numbers, costs, techniques, use of results etc. will finally be made. Stages of the design process Perhaps the biggest barrier to good public participation is…

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Institutional response

Published: February 16, 2017

An institutional response can be the most significant change that occurs following a participation process.  It might be a policy change (e.g. we will change the routing of a road) or a reaction (e.g. we will not change the route of the road because…). Any such change requires agreement to change from the institution itself…

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Review of the process

Published: February 16, 2017

Participation is an emerging field, so evaluation and review of practice is very important. Indeed, formal evaluation is emerging as an integral part of good public participation management for on-going projects. Planning a review process in advance is also important to ensure that the learning is gathered from the work as it happens.  This enables…

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