Online participation can be understood as a process with different phases. In this wiki four phases are distinguished:
- Setup - The initial phase that prepares for the execution of the actual participation
- Execution - The phase in which the actual participation actions take place.
- Result - The phase that follows an the active participation can be narrowly understood as simply the end of a participation process with a result (e.g. a decision, a norm or a collection of opinions), or more broadly as the process in order to reach a decision about the results as well as its utilization.
- Impact - The final phase covers the variety of different consequences that flow from the participation process.
In some participation processes, for example those organized by local administration, these phases are easy to identify as they closely correspond to the project structure with clearly communicated time frames for participation. For these processes there are numerous handbooks and guidelines explaining the different characteristics and necessary actions for each phase (see studies below). In less formal settings these phases might no be as apparent.
Also, the individual phases are not always perfectly delineated but there can be some overlap. In particular, in continuous participation processes execution, result and impact might run in parallel to some extent.