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Champions of Participation: Engaging Citizens in Local Governance

Champions of Participation is a 50-page report summarizing an international learning event held in the U.K. from May 31 to June 4, 2007. Sponsored by the Citizenship DRC and Logolink, the event focused on  the role of champions of participation inside government, whether they be elected officials or government officers. Download here.

What happens when you bring together ‘champions of participation’ from countries in every continent to explore the problems and the potential for strengthening citizen participation in local government? What do their experiences, drawn from such different contexts, have in common? What are the lessons and how can sharing this experience inform and shape policy and practice in the UK and elsewhere?

The Champions of Participation event in May 2007 brought together 44 people (24 from the UK and 20 from 14 other countries1) involved in local government to discuss these questions. They comprised elected officials, including mayors from the Philippines and Brazil; city councillors from New Orleans and UK authorities; local government officials and other service providers; community activists; workers from local and national NGOs; academics and representatives of central government in the UK and in India.

The aim was to look at the challenges local governments face in responding to growing demands for citizen engagement and more participatory forms of governance.

This 50-page report summarizes the discussions and debates held over a five-day period which included a two-day workshop, two days of visiting sites in the UK of particular interest, and one day of policy dialogue with UK policymakers in the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

Resource Link: https://ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/ChampionsOfParticipationReport.pdf

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  1. Mike Huggins Says:

    The International Champions conference was a transforming experience, and underscored for me both how fragile and how interconnected our democracies are. One of my most vibrant memories was having a beer in Bradford UK with Olivio Dutra, former mayor of Porta Alegre, Brazil as he emphasized the importance of citizens being involved in making decisions about budgets and finances. He felt very strongly that citizens cannot fully comprehend their role in democratic governance until they are actually involved in making a budget decision. Olivio was mayor when the participatory budgeting was initiated in Porto Alegre.

    One of the follow-up reports coming out of the Champions conference were several more detailed case studies, including one on the Eau Claire Clear Vision civic engagement initiative. The case study is available at: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/r4d/PDF/Outputs/CentreOnCitizenship/CaseStudy_EuClaire.pdf

    There is much to learn from the democracies in the global South. Perhaps we should look to convening a 2012 International Champions of Participation conference in the US? Let me know if anyone is interested in working on the idea.

    Mike Huggins
    City Manager
    Eau Claire, WI