Published on November 7, 2012

Public participation for the lost

Participation Compass

Involve’s Communications Intern, Metin Parlak, introduces – the revamped and updated version of 

Participation Compass logo

Have you ever noticed that when you discover or learn something new you proceed to notice it everywhere? Psychologists call this ‘perceptual vigilance’. Over the past two months, whilst working at Involve, I have embarked on a participation crash course.  Since then, I have had my latest experience of ‘perceptual vigilance’ – my local council, Croydon, announced plans for a consultation process on a new council tax support scheme , and I have also spotted signs on local store windows displaying information about resident associations and forums.

Like most, my preconceptions of democratic participation were limited to abstract themes such as trends in electoral turnout.  Discussions of disengagement in the news tend only to run parallel to instances in current affairs where citizens are crudely expected to express their stake in the democratic process by marking X on a ballot paper. Yet, the debates and decisions that affect citizens’ lives are omnipresent and the inclusion of citizens ought to be too. But how can we achieve such a level of inclusion? And is it even possible? Given the limited characterisation of disengagement in the news citizens, and to a lesser extent representatives, may be forgiven for not being aware of the rich theoretical and practical backdrop to public participation; the dissemination of which can help tackle the issue of disengagement at all levels.

Participation Compass serves to make that point a reality. The site has been developed in partnership with Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation committed to social inclusion. In particular, a special thank you is in order for Alexander Koop whose contribution to the development of the site has been essential.

Participation Compass contains a catalogue of participatory methods and case studies that demonstrate how greater engagement can be achieved. It is a revamped and updated version of Involve’s highly popular People and Participation site. Significant to the success of the old site was its open nature; practitioners from a variety of backgrounds were invited to share their experiences of engagement through the submission of case studies. As with the old, we welcome users’ contributions to the development of Participation Compass. Other features of the site include, a substantial library containing great resources for achieving effective participation; a list of engagement experts; the latest news and commentary on participation; and a comprehensive filter allowing you to find content to suit your resources, aims and participants.   We will also shortly be launching a mobile app for the site.

Our intention is that Participation Compass becomes a vital resource for all those considering engagement.  Personally I feel that Croydon Council has clearly recognised some value in using engagement techniques to consult its vibrant and diverse community. It would be great to see them adopt this perspective more frequently and in different, new, scenarios to effectively address the needs of the ever-changing town.

We are excited to launch Participation Compass as a hub where this innovative thinking can take shape.

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