Berner et al. (2011) - What constitutes effective citizen participation in local government? Views from city stakeholders.

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Berner, Maureen M. / Amos, Justin M. / Morse, Ricardo S. (2011). What constitutes effective citizen participation in local government? Views from city stakeholders. Public Administration Quarterly, 35(1), 128-163.

problem

What marks an „effective“ participation process? The authors examine the attitudes of relevant stakeholders in local participation processes, such as elected officials, city staff and citizens, towards what constitutes an „effective“ process. Is there a consensus about important elements of an „effective“ process? Or are there massive differences between the groups? The study investigates budgetary processes in four cities in North Carolina.

method

Interviews with members from the three stakeholder groups named above (n=40). Standardized elements (statements to agree/disagree) combined with open answers.

summary

There seems to be no universal definition of an „effective“ process in practice. Although there are some areas of general agreement (e.g. that citizen input needs feedback and participation shouldn’t stay symbolic), there are remarkable differences between the groups. Elected officials tend to say participation is effective when citizens provide input when asked. Staff members emphasize the importance of citizens learning about the topic and serving as advocates for the community, while for the citizens, their actual influence on the decisions made is a key point constituting effective participation.