Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation

By William Simonsen; Mark D. Robbins | Go to book overview

Much of the background in which citizen participation operates is described by the larger tensions of representation versus participation, politics versus administration, and bureaucracies and expertise versus citizen access. Some trace the roots of these efforts back as far as ancient Greece, but we see a good case for contemporary participation rising out of the social crises of the 1960s and 1970s. It was during this period that mandates for participation through hearings and agencies first appeared. Public hearings and citizen agencies each have their strengths and drawbacks. The drawbacks refer mostly to some compromise between representativeness and efficiency, as characterized by the narrowness of views collected in hearings and the redundancy and accountability issues of the "near-government" CAAs.

Modern citizen participation efforts relating to the resource decisions facing governments are commonly some form of satisfaction survey that may not be conducted in a manner that is representative of the population at large. Of those that do use representative sampling, many do not constrain the choices of respondents in a manner that reflects the real decisions facing decision makers. Operating under these limits, governments may be committing significant resources to efforts that yield little practical result and may even further erode the confidence of citizens. Those projects that have successfully combined representative sampling and real constraints have produced thoughtful, innovative, and interesting results that provide valuable information to decision makers. Getting the commitment of decision makers up front and the cooperation of the media may help these efforts to go even further in influencing decisions. An honest evaluation of these processes following their completion is essential to ensuring that such efforts are carefully designed and executed and that they managed to match the decision need at hand.

Evaluation criteria that focus on voting outcomes miss the point of an information-rich deliberative process, which is to inform. In fact, depending on the level of the information incongruity between participants and the public, the results of a deliberative information process may be the opposite of a popular vote. If this difference is profound, decision makers may need to use the process result to inform the rest of the citizenry.


Notes
1.
We attempted to find out about the range of possible citizen involvement techniques by looking at both likely and unlikely sources. These sources included a traditional literature review of appropriate books and journals; use of electronic search tools, including World Wide Web searches, requests for information through topically related list services and news groups, and Nexus searches of news accounts of participation projects; and formal queries to organizations, in-

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Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Notes xx
  • 1 - Theoretical and Historical Context of Public Participation 1
  • Notes 19
  • 2 - Contemporary Techniques for Citizen Involvement 21
  • Notes 42
  • 3 - How Do (citizens Balance the Budget? 45
  • Notes 70
  • 4 - How Fiscal Information and Service Use Influence Citizen Preferences 71
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Conclusions: Lessons for Governments 115
  • Appendices 125
  • References 163
  • Index 173
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