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Fonds documentaire dynamique sur la
gouvernance des ressources naturelles de la planète

Sharing Power : How might participatory democracy be privileged?

Documents sources

Borrini-Feyerabend Grazia, Pimbert Michel, Farvar M.Taghi, Kothari Ashish, Renard Yves et al, Sharing Power - Learning by Doing in Co-management of Natural Resources throughout the World, IIED, IUCN, CMWG, CEESP, 2004.

Participatory democracy is often promoted as an idea that would allow a more inclusive decision-making system, a fairer society, and a more sustainable natural resources management. Different experiences of participatory democracy throughout the world have proved that if this system is definitely interesting, it still needs to be improved, particularly in its technical and organizational aspects. How to define and comprehend the main features of deliberative and inclusive processes? How to define effective methods that could help improving deliberative inclusive processes for policy making?

Checklist 11.2. Some features of deliberative and inclusive processes (DIPs) (adapted from Hommes and Scoones, 2000; and references therein)

  • Deliberation is defined as “careful consideration” or “the discussion of reasons for and against”. Deliberation is a common, if not inherent, component of all decision making in democratic societies.

  • Inclusion is the action of involving others. An inclusive decision-making process is based on the active involvement of multiple social actors and emphasises the participation of previously excluded citizens.

  • Social interaction is at the heart of the DIPs, which normally incorporate face-to-face meetings among those involved.

  • There is a dependence on language through discussion and debate. This is usually in the form of verbal and visual constructions rather than written text.

  • A deliberative process assumes that, at least initially, there are different positions held by the participants and that these views are all respected.

  • DIPs are designed to enable participants to evaluate and re-evaluate their positions in the light of different perspectives and new evidence.

  • The form of negotiation is often seen as containing value over and above the “quality of the decisions” that emerge. Participants share a commitment to the resolution of problems through public reasoning and dialogue aimed at mutual understanding, even if perfect consensus is not being achieved or even expected as possible.

  • There is the recognition that, while the goal is usually to reach decisions, or at least positions upon which decisions can subsequently be taken, an unhurried, reflective and reasonably open-ended discussion is required for those decisions to be solidly grounded and “owned”.

Checklist 11.1. A selection of methods that can be used in deliberative inclusive processes for policy-making (adapted from Chambers, 1997; Warner, 1997; Clarke, 1998; ESRC, 1998; Holland, 1998; Lowndes and Stoker, 1998; IPPR, 1999; Stirling and Maher, 1999; del Valle, 1999)

  • Citizens juries

A citizens jury is a group of citizens chosen to be a fair representation of a local population brought together to consider a particular issue set by the local authority. Citizens juries receive evidence from expert witnesses and cross-questioning can occur. The process may last up from several days, at the end of which a report is drawn up to set out the views of the jury, including any differences in opinion. Juries’ views are intended to inform government decision-making.

  • Citizens panels

    • Research panels. A research panel is a large sample of a local population used as a sounding board by a public sector organisation. It is a form a research which tracks changes in opinion and attitudes over time. In Germany for example, these panels are known to consist of 500-3000 participants. Members are recruited either by mail or by telephone, as a sample of a given population. Panel have a standing membership and a proportion of their members is replaced regularly. Participants are asked regularly about different issues over a period of time.

    • Interactive panels. Other models also have a standing membership, which may be replaced overtime but basically consists of small groups of people meeting regularly to deliberate on issues and make policy recommendations.

  • Consensus conferences

A panel of lay people who develop their understanding of technical or scientific issues in dialogue with experts. A panel of between 10-20 volunteers are recruited through advertisements. A steering committee is set up with members chosen by the sponsors. The panel’s members attend two week-ends where they are briefed on the subject and identify the questions they want to ask in the conference. The conference last for 3-4 days and gives the panel a chance to ask experts any outstanding question. The conference is open to the public and the audience can also ask questions. The panel’s members retire and independently of the steering committee prepare a report that sets their views on the subject. Copies of the report are made available to the conference audience and panel members present key sections to the audience.

  • Deliberative opinion poll

This method measures informed opinion on an issue. A deliberative poll examines what the public at large thinks when it has had the occasion and information to consider the matter carefully and closely. A baseline survey of opinion and demography is carried out and the participants of the poll are then recruited to resemble the wider group both in terms of demography and attitude. Often briefing begin before the event by means of written or/and visual information. Then, during several days, the participants deliberate in smaller groups and compose questions to be put to experts and politicians in plenary group discussions. Their views on a given subject are measured before the poll begins and again once it has finished. Changes in opinion are measured and incorporated into a report. Deliberative polls are often held in conjunction with television companies.

  • Visioning exercises and future search conferences

A range of methods (including focus groups) may be used within a visioning exercise, the purpose of which is to establish the “vision” participants have of the future and the kind of the future they would like to create. Visioning may be used to inform broad strategy for a locality, or may have a more specific focus (as in environmental consultations for local Agenda 21 or, indeed for all sorts of co-management agreements).

The heart of future search conferences is a two-to four-day meeting where participants attempt to create a shared vision of the future. It brings together those with the power to make decisions with those affected by decisions to try to agree on a plan of action. The process is managed by a steering group of local people representing key sections of the community. People who are recruited are asked to form several “stakeholder groups” within the conference. They take part in a structured two-to four-day process in which they move from reviewing the past to creating ideal future scenarios. Each of the stakeholder groups explains its vision and then a shared vision is explored. The conference ends with the development of action plans and policy recommendations. Self-selected action groups develop projects and commit themselves to action towards their vision.

  • Innovative development

Innovative development is a methodology consisting of four participatory steps. First, an “action map” is formulated. This is a systematic vision for action of an attainable and desired future that reflects the consensus of participants. Second, there is estimation of the distance from the current situation to the attainable future and of the capabilities that are available. Third, is a study of “potentialities” the systematic identification and evaluation of each of the prospective actions. Fourth, is the design for action. All methodological steps are carried out through the participation of relevant actors who are convoked by an appropriate and legitimate authority. This, in fact, in very close to the steps of the co-management process.

  • Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) / Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)

A family of approaches, methods and behaviours to enable people to express and analyse the realities of their lives and conditions, and to plan, monitor and evaluate action that seems appropriate to them. In PRA/PLA, outsiders act as catalysts for local people to decide what to do with the information and analysis that they generate. PRA methods include participant observation, semi-structured interviews and visual techniques (maps, matrices, trend lines, diagrams).

  • Issue forums

These are ongoing bodies with regular meetings, which focus on particular issue (e.g., community safety or health promotion). They may have a set membership or operate on an open basis, and are often able to make recommendations to relevant council committees or to share in decision-making processes. In India, for example, “issue forums” or “study circles” in villages are spaces where villagers gather to discuss specific subjects of interest, e.g., the impact of non-timber forest produce collection, or honey collection, or hunting. Sometimes, they will call in outside experts to help. The understanding and information that they generate is then used in the village assembly decision-making processes.

  • Multi-criteria mapping

Multi-Criteria Mapping (MCM) attempts to combine the transparency of numerical approaches with the unconstrained framings of discursive deliberations. The technique involves a rather complex series of steps, including: deciding the subject areas, defining the basic policy options, selecting the participants, conducting individual interviews (2-3 hours sessions where additional options are selected, evaluative criteria are defined, options are scored and relative weighting is given to criteria), having researchers carrying out quantitative and qualitative analyses of the opinions of the participants, providing feedback on preliminary results, developing deliberations among participants and, after a final analysis, producing a report and policy recommendations.