Monday, 16 September 2013

Seminar 3 - A ladder of Citizens participation

Citizen participation – isn't probably thought about when thinking of planning very much. But none the less is such a significant part of planning and making sure Plans are good and work well. Sherry Arnstein developed a ladder of different levels of community consultation the ladder begins with a section called non participation which involves Manipulation and therapy – these are consultation areas are really basic you tell the community the good things that you think they’ll like and then keep the negatives secret till the plan is implemented.

The second section of the ladder is tokenism which consists of Informing, consultation and placation – in this section you tell the community what you intend to do and you may even hear feedback from them and possibly take that on board but basically you have an idea and vision and that’s what’s going to happen regardless of what is said you just hold it as a token so the community feels like its involved. The final section of the ladder and the most important, the section which will result in the best outcome for all stakeholders and society in most cases is citizen power this includes partnership, delegated power and citizens control – in this section you allow the community to engage in the plans and add their ideas and criticisms so you end up with a plan that works in the community. A good example of poor community consultation that was given in the seminar was the highway across the south Bronx, joining the more affluent areas of New York with Manhattan with no consideration of the poor people in-between no consultation was given to the impoverished people affected by this plan and as a result many people were displaced and made homeless while others received a distinctly lower standard of living due to a lack of involvement and consultation.

While a good example of good citizens participation was given in the presentation through the Murfreesboro citizens participation plan which is government going out of its way to get feedback on its plans and policies from all members of society whether disabled, abled, any race, old, young and in-between all members of society. Consultation is so important in planning as you may be an expert in planning but if the plan doesn't fit in with citizens and the community it is useless and won’t work but plans with good community consultation create great initiatives and a better society. 


  1. We must ensure that we don't distinguish citizens based on this 'rungs' ladder. All citizens should have every opportunity, regardless of their education level of wealth, to have their say. After all, its 'their' community we are planning for. I don't like the idea that people of higher status should have the power to heavily influence development proposals on those who barely have the opportunity to have their say. We must ensure everyone who are involved in a proposal should be sitting on one table together discussing proposal ideas etc.

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  3. I do agree with the above comment but I think it is necessary for planners to be really involved and help to explain what the best approach is. Sometimes the lack of knowledge of citizens can be a hindrance.

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  4. Arnstein was very much a product of the Participatory Democracy movement of the era and presents a direct and quite deliberate challenge to our entrenched system of Representative Democracy.
    Ladder of Citizen Participation