Published on September 13, 2011

Pathways through Participation findings launched!

By Tim Hughes

Tim is Open Government Programme Manager at Involve and coordinator of the UK Open Government Network - a coalition of active citizens and civil society organisations committed to making government work better for people through increased transparency, participation and accountability.

Today, 13 September 2011, sees the launch of the findings of the Pathways through Participation project, a major two-and-a-half year study of active citizenship. The project has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and carried out by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.

The project has aimed to improve our understanding of how and why people participate, how their involvement changes over time, and what pathways, if any, exist between different activities.

The final report and a summary report, along with other resources, are available from the Pathways through Participation website:

Follow #pthwys on Twitter for updates from the launch and to contribute to the debate. As ever, we greatly value your feedback, so please take some time, if you are able, to leave us comments on this post.

To whet your appetite, here is the foreword to the report :

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve are pleased to publish this important new report about how people participate in society. Pathways through Participation is an ambitious research project that aims to improve our understanding of how and why people participate, how their involvement changes over time, and what pathways, if any, exist between different types of activities.

The project emerged from a common desire across our three organisations to create a fuller picture of how people participate over their lifetimes. It builds on work completed at NCVO on active citizenship, adds to IVR’s research into volunteering by exploring it in relation to other forms of participation, and extends Involve’s research and practice in empowering citizens to take and influence the decisions that affect their lives. National and local governments have grappled for decades with the challenges of how to encourage people to be more active citizens. Their reasons have varied over time, from improving public services to reducing public spending or enhancing democracy. Recent policy developments around localism, the Big Society, outsourcing public services, encouraging charitable giving and the role of the voluntary sector have made questions about participation more topical than ever.

This report provides the practical intelligence that will enable voluntary and community organisations, public service providers and government at all levels to better support and develop participation. It is only through hearing people’s personal stories, and focusing on their individual experience, that the complexities and dynamics of how participation works in practice can be fully understood. We interviewed over 100 people across three localities – their stories of participation provide the powerful body of evidence drawn on in this report.

This research shows that people participate in a myriad of ways, depending on what has meaning and value to them. They participate as individuals and collectively. Their reasons for participating are sometimes altruistic and sometimes it is to achieve something more explicitly for themselves. We have found many stories of how life enhancing participation can be, but also of its negative effects. Participation can be a core part of people’s lives or something they do once in a while. It doesn’t happen in a bubble but connects to different aspects of their lives. And it is shaped by their circumstances and capabilities, as well as the personal, practical and political opportunities and barriers they face.

We hope that policy-makers, practitioners and researchers will find this report useful in developing a richer and fuller understanding of how and why people participate, and what makes them start and continue (and stop) participating. Beyond promoting understanding, we hope that this report will help institutions and organisations find ways in which they can support and encourage opportunities for participation that better meet people’s

Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO
Simon Burall, Involve
Nick Ockenden, IVR

Leave a Reply