Thursday, 14 January 2010

Participation literature review The Pathways to Participation project has published its literature review, which must leave the project staff with a great 'now-let's-get-on-with-it' feeling. This is going to be a handy document. The literature of participation is vast and I can't believe anyone really has a good handle on it. We're all going to have our favourite texts which may or may not contribute to the overall picture the project presents. That's not the point: it's more like an exercise in representing a phenomenon from all possible perspectives in order to get a unified understanding of what it is. So the project perspective is broad, and it feels like there are strong efforts to counter the perception of a bias towards volunteering - plenty of reference to consumer and social movements, for instance. Informal public participation features strongly, and a framework (or rather set of frameworks) emerges to help see participation in terms of life stages, specific activities, the places where it is conducted, and various dimensions such as local-global, passive-active, one-off or ongoing, and so on. Once the project data starts coming in, people who are good at playing with matrices and fancy graphics can have a field day. 'Much of what is relevant in the different bodies of literature examined here does not even frame itself as being about participation – it is about, for example, volunteering or ethical consumerism. In this review we have attempted to map out this vast and complex landscape, to integrate different bodies of literature on participation, and to move towards a ‘round-earth’ view of participation. In doing so, we hope to have mapped the terrain for our Pathways through Participation project, as well as providing what we hope will be a useful review for other readers.' The key emerging themes will not come as a surprise - that it's about power, relationships, people and context. This is about checking your tools before you move out in to the field. Project work begins in Leeds, Enfield and Suffolk.

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