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Ladder of Participation


In an article of 1969 Arnstein proposed a ‘Ladder of Participation’which depicted different levels of citizen participation that governments can allow. On the majority of the steps on this ladder, citizens do not have any real influence. The ladder shows who has power when important decisions are being made. Even today, many governance processes are still on the lower steps of the ladder.


8.  Citizen Control. Citizens handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme.

7.  Delegation. Citizens holding a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated powers to make decisions on the programme.

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

5.  Placation. A few citizens are chosen in a committee. Citizens can advise and power holders can judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.

4.  Consultation. Surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public enquiries. How the outcomes are used is decided by power holders.

3.  Informing. A most important first step but frequently the emphasis is on a one way flow of information.

2.  Therapy. The aim is to cure or educate the participants. The proposed plan is best and the job of participation is to achieve public support.

1.  Manipulation. Neighborhood advisory groups have no legitimate function or power but are used to "prove" that "grassroots people" are involved in the program.


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