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Representation, Community Leadership and Participation: Citizen Involvement in Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Governance

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Within the UK, as in many other parts of the world, an increased focus is being placed on the involvement of community leaders, voluntary groups, neighbourhood residents and civic associations in the policy decisions which affect their lives and in the design and implementation of services, especially at the local level. Often referred to in the UK as ‘the new localism’, these initiatives are seen by their proponents as enhancing civic life, deepening democratic participation, and contributing to more effective neighbourhood renewal and sustainable communities. Critics of these approaches, on the other hand, argue that the new participatory approaches weaken the co- ordinating role of local government and erode the roles and responsibilities of locally elected councillors and representatives
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Content Preview







Representation, Community Leadership and Participation:
Citizen Involvement in
Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Governance







Prepared for the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit
Office of Deputy Prime Minister





by
Professor John Gaventa
Institute of Development Studies
(J.Gaventa@ids.ac.uk)






July 2004






Table of Contents

Executive Summary _________________________________________________________1
I. Introduction _____________________________________________________________3
II. From government to governance: the broadening basis of democratic participation ___5
III. Representation, leadership and participation: A review of the debate _____________9
Representative and/or participatory democracy? ___________________________________ 11
Who represents whom? issues of accountability and representativeness________________ 12
Procedural legitimacy: How are leaders selected? __________________________________ 14
Beyond the Ballot Box: other sources of legitimacy _________________________________ 15
The ‘ myth of community’: representing multiple publics ____________________________ 16
Clarifying the roles: collaborators or adversaries? _________________________________ 18
IV. Expanding the Legal Frameworks: Experiences from other countries ____________19
Joint approaches to planning____________________________________________________ 20
Changing forms of accountability ________________________________________________ 21
Empowered forms of local direct participation _____________________________________ 21
Strengthening the inclusive representation of locally-elected bodies____________________ 21
V. Key Lessons and Ways Forward____________________________________________25
The importance of enabling legal and statutory provisions ___________________________ 25
The importance of local and regional context ______________________________________ 25
Working on both sides of the equation – strengthening community voice _______________ 26
Working both sides of the equation – strengthening government responsiveness _________ 27
Developing and promulgating clear ‘rules and roles of engagement’ ___________________ 27
Clarifying the identities and accountabilities underlying representative processes________ 28
Improving incentives for engagement and quality representation _____________________ 28
Garnering support from non-governmental allies __________________________________ 29
Naming and addressing power relationships _______________________________________ 30
Taking time and going slow _____________________________________________________ 30
VI. Conclusion. ___________________________________________________________32
VII. Sources and References _________________________________________________34




Executive Summary

Within the UK, as in many other parts of the world, an increased focus is being placed on the
involvement of community leaders, voluntary groups, neighbourhood residents and civic
associations in the policy decisions which affect their lives and in the design and
implementation of services, especially at the local level.

Often referred to in the UK as ‘the new localism’, these initiatives are seen by their
proponents as enhancing civic life, deepening democratic participation, and contributing to
more effective neighbourhood renewal and sustainable communities. Critics of these
approaches, on the other hand, argue that the new participatory approaches weaken the co-
ordinating role of local government and erode the roles and responsibilities of locally elected
councillors and representatives.

Commissioned by the NRU to explore these issues further, this paper outlines (i) underlying
issues related to leadership, representation, and participation as they have been experienced in
other parts of the world and (ii) suggests lessons from international experience which may
relate to the debate in the UK context.

Following a review of the broad trends towards new and innovative forms of citizen
participation in governance, the paper outlines key challenges which these trends pose,
especially in the area of community leadership and democratic representation. These issues
include:

• tensions found in competing concepts of representative and participatory democracy;

• the accountability and ‘representativeness’ of both councillors and leaders;

• questions of procedural legitimacy – how representatives and leaders are chosen;

• broader sources of legitimacy – representation beyond the ballot box;

• the problem of representing multiple publics, and

• balancing ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ roles, especially around issues of power, conflict
and collaboration.

The paper examines various legal frameworks for incorporating citizen participation in local
governance that have been used in other countries, and which go beyond ‘consultation’ to
incorporate more empowered forms of citizen involvement with elected leaders. These may
include:

• approaches to planning at the local government level that link community
representatives and elected representatives in forms of authority and decision-making;

• new ways in which public accountability is exercised;

• more direct and popular forms of participation at the local level;



2
• approaches which make existing representative structures more inclusive.

The paper concentrates on experiences and examples from abroad, rather than on perhaps
already existing examples in the UK. Nevertheless, through the review a number of lessons
emerge. Discussed more fully in the following sections, these broad lessons highlight the
need to:

• strengthen the legal or statutory provisions which enable participation;

• recognise diverse local and regional contexts. A one-size-fits-all approach will not
work. New tools may be needed to ‘map’ the preparedness of communities and local
governments for participatory approaches, as well as to map and to build upon the
diversity of local understandings of leadership;

• ‘work both sides of the equation’, simultaneously focusing both on community
empowerment and supporting the capacity of local officials and civil servants to
understand, and respond to that empowerment;

• develop and promulgate clear guidelines which clarify the appropriate rules and roles
for engagement between community leaders, government staff and elected officials in
the LSP and similar bodies;

• develop guidelines which help to clarify the different forms of accountability which
underlie different forms of representation;

• improve the incentives for quality representation and participation, especially through
ensuring that real decisions over resources and strategy can be made by local bodies;

• seek support from broader bodies, including trade unions, the political parties, and
others;

• name and address power relationships that surround participatory process, so that
community leaders, local government officials and elected representatives participate
on a ‘level playing field’ to the extent possible;

• recognise that the development of new forms of representation and participation will
take time, and involves change not only in rules and procedures, but also in culture,
attitudes and behaviours.

Finally, the report points to the need for learning from the approaches to these issues across
the variety of community involvement initiatives which exist in Whitehall, as well as to
identify local innovations and examples already existing in the UK which can help to suggest
more concrete ways forward.





Representation, Community Leadership and Participation:
Citizen involvement in Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Governance
Professor John Gaventa
Institute of Development Studies

I. Introduction
Within the UK, as in many other parts of the world, an increased focus is being placed on the
involvement of community leaders, voluntary groups, neighbourhood residents and civic
associations in the policy decisions which affect their lives and in the design and
implementation of services, especially at the local level.

Often referred to in the UK as ‘the new localism’, these initiatives are seen by their
proponents as enhancing civic life, deepening democratic participation, and contributing to
more effective neighbourhood renewal and sustainable communities. Critics of these
approaches, on the other hand, argue that the new participatory approaches weaken the co-
ordinating role of local government and erode the roles and responsibilities of locally elected
councillors. Others argue that localism can constrain national policies for greater social
equity and poverty reduction.

One of the arenas in which these conflicts are emerging is in the implementation of the
government’s Neighbourhood Renewal Programme. The National Strategy for
Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR) places community involvement at the heart of the strategy
and integral to the process of improving the most deprived neighbourhoods (which are
located in 88 local authority areas). Within these areas, community participation programmes
fund community involvement in a variety of ways. The Community Empowerment Fund
(CEF), for instance, provides resources direct from central government to local community
and voluntary sector organisations to ensure their involvement in Local Strategic Partnerships
(LSPs), the bodies designed to link a range of stakeholders including public service
providers, councillors, the voluntary, community and private sectors.

In this process, confusion and tension is emerging in many LSPs regarding the respective
roles of community representatives, elected councillors and local officials. It is not
uncommon for each to claim to represent the community and each have responsibilities to
ensure that communities have a strong voice in local decision-making. Beneath this particular
tension lie broader issues about the nature of democratic representation, who advocates for
whom, how legitimacy in leadership is derived, and the links between participatory and
electoral forms of democracy.

The Participation Group at the Institute of Development Studies has a great deal of
experience and expertise in participation and governance issues in the context of community
development and poverty reduction in other countries. This paper has been commissioned by
the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit (NRU) to draw on this experience to (i) outline underlying
issues related to leadership, representation, and participation as they have been experienced in

∗ Thanks to Jonathan Gaventa, who served as research assistant for this project and reviewed much of the
literature in section II, and to colleagues Andrea Cornwall, Rosalind Eyben, Zander Navarro and Juliet
Merrifield for their comments. Thanks also to Tricia Zipfel and Jane Aspden at ODPM for their very useful
suggestions.



4
participatory approaches to community revitalisation and participatory governance in the UK
and other parts of the world, including the poor countries of the South and the more
developed countries of the North; and (ii) outline innovative steps that have been taken
elsewhere, or which could be taken in the UK, to alleviate these tensions.

In approaching these tasks, the following paper will:

• locate the debates about community leadership and representation in the broader
context of the changing nature of democratic governance;

• explore more specifically the issues involved in linking participation, community
leadership and political representation;

• examine some recent examples of participatory governance that have been used in
other parts of the world to link community leaders, community participants and local
representatives; and

• drawing on this analysis, suggest some lessons and ways forward on this issue for the
NRU, ODPM and other interested parties.

The paper concentrates on experiences and examples from abroad, rather than on perhaps
already existing examples in the UK. Nevertheless, through the review a number of lessons
emerge.



5

II. From government to governance: the broadening basis of democratic participation

In recent years a number of studies have pointed to the gap that exists within both North and
South between ordinary people, especially the poor, and the institutions which affect their
lives, especially government. For instance, the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor study,
prepared for the World Development Report 2000/1, finds that many poor people around the
globe perceive large institutions – especially those of the state – to be distant, unaccountable
and corrupt. (Narayan, et. al. 2000:172). The Voices of the Poor study is not alone in its
findings. Another study by the Commonwealth Foundation (1999) in over forty countries
also found a growing disillusionment of citizens with their governments, based on their
concerns with corruption, lack of responsiveness to the needs of the poor, and the
disconnection from the lives of ordinary citizens.

The empirical evidence on the crisis in the relationship between citizens and their state is not
limited to the South. Though for perhaps entirely different reasons, in a number of
established democracies, especially the UK and the USA, traditional forms of political
participation such as voting have gone down, and a series of studies show clearly the
enormous distrust citizens have of many state institutions. In the UK, a study sponsored by
the Joseph Rowntree Foundation points to the:

need to build a new relationship between local government and local people. There
are two reasons for this. The first has to do with alienation and apathy. There is a
major issue about the attitudes of the public, as customers or citizens, towards local
government …This is a symptom of a deeper malaise, the weakness or lack of public
commitment to local democracy (Clarke and Stewart 1998:3).

A more recent study by IPPR argues that people remain interested in political issues, but are
increasingly becoming frustrated in the political process and feel that Britain is becoming less
democratic (Clarke 2002). A host of other studies point to similar concerns.

Other data in the United States, most notably the work by Robert Putnam (2000), points to
the decline in civic participation and the growing distance between citizens and state
institutions. More recent work by Skocpol (2003:11) warns of the emergence of ‘diminished
democracy’, in which public involvement has lost its link to political life and political
engagement has become more the domain of professionalized associations, such that ‘early-
twenty-first-century Americans live in a diminished democracy, in a much less participatory
and more oligarchicly managed civic world’.

While the ‘democratic deficit’ is now widely recognised, there has often been disagreement
about how to respond. On the one hand, attention has been given to strengthening the
processes of citizen participation – that is the ways in which ordinary citizens exercise voice
through new forms of inclusion, consultation and/or mobilisation designed to inform and to
influence larger institutions and policies. On the other hand, growing attention has been paid
to how to strengthen the accountability and responsiveness of these institutions and policies
through changes in institutional design, and a focus on the enabling structures for good
government.




6
Increasingly, however, we are beginning to see the importance of working on both sides of
the equation. As participatory approaches are scaled up from projects to policies, they
inevitably enter the arenas of government, and find that participation can only become
effective as it engages with issues of institutional change. And, as concerns about
government responsiveness grow, questions about how citizens engage and make demands on
the state also come to the fore. In this debate, we have seen a shift from discussions about
government to those of governance, which focus on broad forms of involvement between the
state, civil society and market.

In both South and North, there is growing consensus that the way forward is found in
focusing on both a more active and engaged citizenry and a more responsive and effective
state which can deliver needed public services (Commonwealth Foundation 1999). Within
this debate, citizens move from being simply ‘users or choosers’ of public services policies
made by others, to ‘makers and shapers’ of policies themselves (Cornwall and Gaventa
2000). In this process, participation means more than consultation, but involves shared
responsibilities for decision-making in the making of policies and the allocation of resources.

To quote a recent study from OECD: ‘Policy-making in all OECD countries rests on the
foundation of representative democracy. Within this framework, many OECD countries have
long-standing traditions with extensive community involvement. All are looking for new
ways to include citizens in policy-making’ (2001:12). While within this process, sharing
information with citizens and insuring consultation are critical building blocks, active
participation is something more: ‘a relation based on partnership with government, in which
citizens actively engage in defining the process and content of policy-making…it requires
governments to share in agenda-setting and to ensure that policy proposals generated jointly
will be taken into account in reaching a final decision’ (2001:12).

In response to this agenda, a number of initiatives around the world have sought to find new
forms of governance, which link citizens and states in new ways and seek to rebuild the
relationships between citizens and their governments. Such innovations go under various
labels, ranging from participatory democracy, to deliberative democracy, to 'empowered
participatory governance' (Fung and Wright 2003:5). Exploring four examples of empowered
participatory governance in both North and South (neighbourhood governance councils in
Chicago; conservation planning processes in the US; participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre,
Brazil, and panchayat reforms in West Bengal and Kerala, India), Fung and Wright argue
that these reforms ‘aspire to deepen the ways in which ordinary people can effectively
participate in and influence policies which affect their lives…They are participatory because
they rely upon the commitment and capabilities of ordinary people to make sensible decisions
through reasoned deliberation and empowered because they attempt to tied action to
discussion.’ Arguing in a similar vein, Wainwright explores a series of experiments which
represent ‘a new participatory approach to political power’ (2003:x).

The search for new forms of participatory governance has been a key part of the current UK
government as well. This philosophy has spawned a range of initiatives across Whitehall
aimed at strengthening citizen participation and reconnecting citizens to the state, in areas
having to do with health care, youth, older people, community revitalisation, public service
delivery, and the environment. (For a review of some of these initiatives, see, for instance,
Channan, forthcoming; Clarke 2002; Burton 2003). The trend is also seen in the rapid uptake
of participatory approaches by local authorities. An ODPM report review of 216 local
authorities showed that in 2001 some 8 million people were involved in local authority



7
initiated exercises, which drew on a range of nineteen different methods for consultation,
participation and deliberation. The report also shows a ‘marked increase on some innovative
and deliberative approaches’ since 1997 (Birch 2002:5).

Of the range of government initiatives, one of the most far-reaching has been the National
Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, which targets 88 authorities with the most
disadvantaged neighbourhoods and commits the Government to ‘ensuring that communities’
needs and priorities are to the fore in neighbourhood renewal and that residents of poor
neighbourhoods have the tools to get involved in whatever way they want’. At the heart of
this strategy are four goals for greater community participation, including greater voice (‘that
enables communities to participate in decision-making and increase the accountability of
service providers’), improved social capital, service delivery, social inclusion and cohesion
(NRU 2003.)

The approach has not only been on the domestic front. In other parts of the world, the
Department for International Development (DFID) has been at the forefront of efforts to
promote participatory approaches to development and governance. Its strategy paper on
Realising Human Rights For Poor People (2000),
for instance, argues for the rights of
citizens to be engaged in the decisions and processes which affect their lives. Underpinning
the approach are three principles of a rights perspective: inclusive rights for all people, the
right to participation, and the ‘obligations to protect and promote the realisation’ of rights by
states and other duty bearers – a concept which links to that of accountability.

Several common characteristics underlie these various UK initiatives. These include:

• a concern with more active and participatory forms of citizenship. Such views go well
beyond the notions of citizens as consumers, as articulated during the 1980’s and
early 1990’s, to citizens who engage in policies and in the delivery of services. They
also profess to go beyond consultation to deeper, more empowered forms of
involvement;

• a concern with inclusion, especially of racial and ethnic minorities, youth, older
people, and others seen as previously excluded or marginalised;

• a simultaneous concern with involvement of multiple stakeholders in new forms of
partnership, which in turn enable wider ‘ownership’ of decisions and projects;

• an emphasis on broader forms of accountability, which enable multiple partners to
hold institutions and policy makers to account, and which involve social
accountability as well as legal, fiscal and political forms.

Through this approach, the hope is that participation will not only contribute to overcoming
the ‘democratic deficit’ through better governance and a more engaged citizenry, but also that
participation will meet developmental goals of improved communities and service delivery.

The extent to which these promises are being realised in new participatory initiatives is now
widely debated around the globe. A full review and evaluation of the approaches is beyond
the scope of this paper. What has become clear, however, is that realising new forms of
participatory governance and development is full of challenges. Participatory governance is



8
not simply achieved from above with new policy statements, but requires multiple strategies
of institutional change, capacity building, and behavioural change.

One of these challenges has to do with how more direct forms of community participation,
and the leaders who occupy community roles, link to roles of authority and representation
found in more traditional forms of representative democracy. In a review of participatory
public policy initiatives in the UK, Taylor (2004) writes of the ongoing tension between
representative and participatory democracy:

Not enough thought has gone into the relationship between the two with the result that
many politicians are no longer sure of their role and feel threatened by the power that
they feel is being given to community representatives. It is this that creates “wounded
lions” at all levels that frustrate the rhetoric from the centre.


Similarly, in a recent study on who participates in the new democratic politics in Sao Paulo,
Brazil, Houtzager et al (2003:33) conclude that:

citizen participation is not simply an exercise of political involvement by ordinary
citizens in the policy process, but rather includes a diverse set of collective actors.
This raises a significant new question in the debate on citizen/civil society
participation: what forms of representation are civil society actors constructing in the
new participatory institutions, and how do these new forms of representation involve
ordinary citizens in policy-making?

This issue – widely cited but rarely explored in the burgeoning literature on participatory
governance – is the one to which this paper shall now turn.

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