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What creates and sustains active citizenship?

Pathways to Participation is a new report from the UK that explores why and how people participate in their society.

I received an email earlier this week from Tim Hughes, one of the report researchers, who pointed out a critical finding for public engagement efforts: too often public consultation changes nothing for citizens but a decreased willingness to continue to be engaged. The reason for this is two-fold, he said. One, the engagement exercises are seen as tokenistic, and participants believe that nothing will really change as a result. Two, people are invited to react to changes already proposed, instead of asking people to be a part of creating something for their community.

This sends a clear message to those of us who are interested in better public engagement in governance. It’s critical that people are being asked to participate in conversations that will lead to real impact, and this connection to action is repeatedly demonstrated in how the opportunity is framed, the engagement is run and the next steps are reported back to the public.

The Pathways research team held 101 indepth interviews to understand how to encourage people to be more active citizens. Another interesting result is their findings on how participation starts and stops. I’ll let you take a look at the report for how it starts, and its pathways through life, but here’s an image about how it continues or ends.

Why participation continues stops

Pathways through Participation is a two-and-a-half year qualitative research project funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.

Find out more about the project at pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk

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Susanna Haas Lyons
Susanna Haas Lyons is a public engagement specialist. Bridging online and face-to-face methods, she develops strategy & provides training for better conversations between the public and decision makers.

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