Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Elsie Kim
Last updated: September 16, 2019
Arnstein (1969) stresses the difference between the “empty ritual of participation and having the real power needed to affect the outcome of the process”. She puts forth the ladder of citizen participation to explain that there can be different degrees of participation of stakeholders within governance processes.Figure 3: Eight rungs on a ladder of Citizen Participation (Source: Arnstein, 1969).Manipulation of citizens means an absence of power; citizens do not have the opportunity to respond to decisions made by power holders and there is a one-way flow of information from the power holders to the citizens. The power holders make the public feel as though they are really able to participate, while this is not the case. Therapy means that “participants are ‘helped’ by power holders to act inis used to show how power holders ‘cure’ or ‘educate’ citizens who seem to participate in governance” ().
A socially accepted way instead of listening and act upon their deviant ideas. These lowest rungs of the ladder represent citizens as having no power, and are just used to promote the vision of the power holders and take action (ibid.).Informing means that citizens are informed of their power and ways to use their power. In many cases this happens in a top-down manner whereby citizens have no opportunity to respond to governance coming from above. Consultation are moments whereby citizens are invited to advice powerholders on governance processes. Informing and Consultation can be steps to a more inclusive form of governance.
However, when citizens do not have any guarantee or means to provide feedback to the decisions made, the legitimation of governance process can be in danger. By Placation Arnstein describes how “have-nots” are placed in advisory positions or have some kind of influence within governance processes. This means for instance that a citizen from a minority group such as the urban poor is placed on a local board.
Arnstein (1969) argues that although this seems as inclusion of different societal groups, when the majority of seats would still be in the hands of power holders, this inclusion is a form of tokenism (ibid.). Partnership is a first form of redistribution of power from power holders to citizens. Citizens have an official responsibility and say in governance processes and thus have some kind of institutionalized power.
Delegated power means that citizens from minority groups are distributed power within governance processes through for instance a veto or cooperation between the public and authorities. This type of participation is difficult to establish since it requires a lot of time and effort from citizens. Finally, Citizen Control means that citizens are fully authorized in making decisions within governance processes and thus are in power of implementation of governance.
This degree of power comes hand in hand with some issues: it again requires a lot of time and effort from citizens, certain citizens can abuse their power and this form of participation can be a timely and costly process whereby the effectiveness of decision-making can be questioned. These higher rungs of the ladder represent more degree or full degrees of citizen participation (ibid.).