Prieto-Martín (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation

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  • 8/12/2019 Prieto-Martn (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation


    To be presented at:PDD2014, Contemporarty difficulties and future prospects for Participatory and Deliberative Democracy, NewCastle, 9-11 July 2014

    Participation Schemas: a tool to characterize collaborative participation

    Pedro Prieto-Martn

    Universidad de Alcal, Computer Science Department,

    AbstractThis paper delves into the concept of Open Government, analysing and characterising its participatory andcollaborative dimensions. It presents the Participation Schemas, a conceptual tool that facilitates the analysisand standardized representation of the most important dimensions of participation. Participation Schemasprovide both a categorization model that deepens our critical understanding of participation and a powerfuland flexible tool for the evaluation, design and communication of diverse kinds of participatory initiatives.

    Introduction: Open Government and the ineffable participation1.

    The term Open Governmenthas been used since the 70s to refer to the effort to reduce bureaucratic opaci-ty and open up governments to public scrutiny. Current notions of Open Government are thus the result ofmore than four decades of endeavours to increase the transparency of government actions. These efforts ma-terialized mainly in the enactment of legislation on access to information, privacy, data protection and ad-ministrative procedures, and by creating ombudsman offices and supreme audit institutions (OECD 2009). Inrecent years a new vision of Open Government has spread, that understand it as a new linchpin in efforts toimprove government capacity and modernize public administration based on the principles of transparency[...],participation and collaboration (Ramrez-Alujas 2011). It was, in fact, Barack Obama who popularizedthese three principles in early 2009 when, on his first day as president, issued a Memorandum on Transpar-ency and Open Governmentwhich stated: My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedentedlevel of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system oftransparency, public participation, and collaboration. [] Government should be transparent. [] Gov-ernment should be participatory. [] Government should be collaborative. [](Obama 2009).

    Obama placed Open Government in the center of his executive agenda and, leading by example, transmit-ted his enthusiasm for openness to governments and organizations all around the world, which are currentlydeveloping a myriad of OG initiatives. Of particular significance is the Open Government Partnership that,launched by eight countries in September 2011, is integrated today by 64 countries. All of them have pledgedto increase governmental openness and have established its own action plan detailing specific commitments(CLD 2012).

    However, Obamas memorandum had also negative consequences: it contributed to extend a superficialand inaccurate understanding of OG, as something consisting of three successive pillars transparency, par-ticipation and collaborationwith a growing complexity and importance (Obama 2009, Noveck 2011, Yu &

    Robinson 2012). The first limitation of this Open Governments conceptualization is that it presents as dif-ferent two concepts which, in fact, cannot be conceived separately: participation is collaboration, collabora-tion is participation, or they are nothing. Attempts to draw a clear boundary between the two are fairly arbi-trary and artificial. So much so that many Open Government experts and promoters are unable to clearlyexplain the differences between the two, or the reasons why participation should precede collaboration. It isalso remarkable the lack of agreement on what tools or activities constitute each of them, eg: the use of so-cial networks strengthens the participatory or the collaborative dimension of an Open Government strategy?The answer depends entirely on the resource consulted.

    Most of the studies and research on Open Government developed so far have assumed this conceptual tri-ad to a greater or lesser degree (Lathrop & Ruma 2010, Concha & Naser 2012, Unsworth & Townes 2012,Hofmann et al 2013, XIP 2013). The same is true regarding benchmarking models (Lrinz et al 2011, Coro-nel 2012), deployment models (Lee & Kwak 2011, Krabina et al 2012) and even the very Open Government

    initiatives and strategies (Zubero 2012, Marquez Fernandez et al 2013). Typically, these resources only pro-vide detailed guidance for the subject of Open Data which is often equated with the level of "transparen-

  • 8/12/2019 Prieto-Martn (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation


  • 8/12/2019 Prieto-Martn (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation



    meaningful analytical insights, or they are too complex and specialized, making it difficult their widespreadapplication. As a result, most projects and studies end up relying on the scales proposed by the OECD (2001)and by the International Association for Public Participation (IAPP 2000), which basically simplify Arn-steins eight rungs in three and five levels, respectively. In the case of the OECD these are: 1. Information, 2.Consultation and 3. Active Participation, while IAPPs "Spectrum of participation" includes: 1. Inform, 2.Consult, 3. Involve, 4. Collaborate and 5. Empower. Both models ignore Arnsteins criticism around the is-sue of 'power' and fail to reflect, especially in the higher levels, the wealth of nuances that participation en-

    tails (Prieto-Martn 2010: p. 41-44). They also do not consider essential dimensions that characterize partici-pation, such as its degrees of autonomy, inclusion, deliberation, institutionalization or its impact (Cunill Grau2008).

    Participation Schemas aim to provide a consistent framework for the analysis, design and comparison ofparticipatory cases and methods. Within the wide variety of models proposed so far to analyse participation,the Participation Schemas represent a pragmatic compromise between complexity, utility and versatility. Par-ticipation Schemas make possible to identify the most important dimensions of a participatory initiative, pol-icy or situation, standardizing their graphic representation to facilitate the analysis. Participation Schemasthus allow theorists and researchers, as well as practitioners and activists to quickly apprehend, describe andcompare participatory experiences and situations, paying attention to their fundamental characteristics. Par-ticipation Schemas support the critical and comparative evaluation of participatory projects and initiatives byraising awareness about their strengths and weakneses; something which is much needed to establish reposi-tories of good and bad practices, or to create benchmarking metrics and models.

    We refer to them as schemas, in plural, because this model inteds to stay in a flexible continuous beta:what we present now is just a first proposal which can be further improved. Moreover: different contexts oranalytical intentions may demand, as we shall discuss below, that the proposed categories of analysis are re-fined, simplified or supplemented. The different adaptations of the participation schemas will nonethelesskeep a reasonable consistency with each other, as long as they respect the general framework that inspiresthe model.

    The model has been especially developed for public participation initiatives happening at the local levelbut it can also be applied to higher levels. The basic model presented in this article focuses on analyzing theparticipation that happens in the context of public decision- and policy-making processes. However, it couldbe applied to processes initiated by all kinds of institutions be them private, semi-public or civil actors

    which have a certain capacity to make decisions and are willing to share this capacity with other affected orinterested stakeholders. For example, a commercial company could want to cooperate with its customers toimprove its services. Participation Schemas allow analizing and communicating cases of "administrative par-ticipation" the ones sponsored and generally organized by a public institution, as well as autonomousforms of participation, which emerge from the independent action of civil society actors.

    Next sections will present the five key dimensions that characterize Participation Schemas, which basical-ly respond to the what, who, where, how and when of participation, and thus expose and relate their degreesof collaboration, inclusion, institutionalization, deliberation and transparency, as well as the moments andphases in which participation occurs.

    2.1.Dimension WHAT - Intensity of collaboration

    This first dimension is based on Arnsteins ladder (1969) and describes the various levels of collaborativeintensity exercised in a participatory process. It runs from the levels of Manipulation and Information,through Consultation and Advice, up to the levels of Collaboration, Delegated power and Delegated control.We have grouped these levels within the categories of Non-Participation, Consultativeor innocuousPar-ticipation and Collaborative Participation, also adding a category of Conflict underneath.

    Before explaining these categories we have to highlight something important: the use of ParticipationSchemas demands a critical and penetrant attitude to evaluate participatory processes. The statements and theintentions of the promoters of a participation initiative cannot simply be assumed as valid. A cautious analy-sis needs to be conduted to expose in the Participation Schema not just the ideal that was aimed for but ra-ther its actual practical realization. We must thus assess the extent to which participatory institutions reallywork and to what extent they fulfill their attributions. One participatory institution that, in practice, does notwork should be considered as Non-participation or as one of the Innocuous participation types, regardless

    of the characteristics attributed to them on paper or in official speeches.Since participation processes are complex phenomena, it is often not possible to comprise them within a

  • 8/12/2019 Prieto-Martn (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation



    single level of collaborative intensity. The Participation Schemas indicate the maximum and minimum inten-sity levels that encompass the various collaborative intensities that are present in the participatory process.

    Fig 2. Participation SchemasIntensity of collaboration

    2.1.1.Category Non-Participation

    This class aggregates in a single level, named Manipulation, two of the levels of Arnsteinsmodel: Ma-nipulation, which corresponds to the gross deception of the public, and Therapy, which represents a typemanipulation that seeks to soothe participants and adjust their attitudes.

    This level is characterized by the manipulative intent of the participatory activities, which aim to keeppeople calm, docile and give them the impression that they are being heard when in fact there is no inten-tion to take their proposals seriously, except where it fits within the plans of the decision maker. With differ-

    ent levels of sophistication, many administrative participation spaces are designed by decision makers in away that gives them control over the space, as a way to promote their own political agenda (Kadlec &Friedman 2007; Stewart 2007). These spaces are thus used to ratify decisions that have been already taken,meet legal requirements, etc. Unfortunately, much of the political participation taking place nowadays is ofthis type.

    2.1.2.Category Conflict

    Under the 'Non-Participation' category there is a category named Conflict. The inclusion of this categorycontributes to overcome one of the most important limitations of Arnsteinsmodel, namely that it only con-siders Administrativeparticipation, the participation spaces organized by the government or, more general-ly, by the decision maker. By considering conflict levels, the Participation Schemas can encompass more

    easily the so-called 'Autonomous participation', which is spontaneously initiated by those affected or inter-ested in a decision or problem. This way, Participation Schemas integrate perspectives coming from thecommunity organization field (Kubisch et al 2010) and establish a model that covers both invited, top-

  • 8/12/2019 Prieto-Martn (2014) Participation Schemas - A Tool to Characterize Collaborative Participation



    down organized participation spaces, along with the bottom-up invented participatory spaces (Cornwall2008, Escobar 2011).

    The Conflict category represents negative levels of collaboration, characterized by mutual oppositionand pressures. We are not talking here about the usual small conflicts and differences of interests that are partof any collaboration process and provide the basis and stimulus for finding agreements. We refer rather to in-teractions genuinely characterized by the opposition and the desire, usually by the decision maker, to ignoredemands from other participants.

    The category is divided into two levels: the highest is called Legitimate Coercionand refers to thosecases in which, without fundamentally violating the established legal frameworks, citizens use every meansat their disposal to force the recognition of their demands. These actions run from the friendliest persuasionup to real adversarial coercion, passing through various levels of pressure(Mayne & Coe 2010). The ac-tions are carried out through different strategies such as demonstrations, lobbying of all kinds, boycotts, non-violent civic resistance and even civil disobedience. In many cases these strategies are the only recourseavailable to civil society or specific minorities within itto claim for their rights, especially when govern-ments fail to offer channels of communication, dialogue and collaboration that allow an institutional channel-ing of the conflicts. Citizens become aware that existing participatory venues are not satisfactory and decideto show their discontent through the most diverse ways. Examples of these dynamics are provided by citizenmovements as Occupy o the 15Mmovement in Spain.

    The lowest level is namedIllegal Duressand refers to a much harsher situation. These are cases wherethe conflict escalates and strongly violate fundamental rights. They correspond to the cases of non-peacefuldemonstrations, violent sabotage, kidnappings and even armed resistance. At first glance it may seem strangethat this level is introduced as part of a scale that measures the intensity of collaboration of participatory ac-tivities. However, it is even more surprising that the literature on participation has generally ignored 'conflict'as part of its field of study, because the ultimate reason to create participatory mechanisms is precisely toprevent and avoid violent confrontations.

    The most extreme ca...


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