The Ladder of Participation

Someone at work mentioned that they were reading an article about the Ladder of Participation.  This got me thinking about my own participation in activities both at work and home, predominantly about the roles I have within the #bellringing community.

The Ladder, devised in the late 1960’s, has three categories: Non-participation, Tokenism and Citizen Power.  Each category has a number of rungs within it that describes how citizens, the general public, can through participation, have more influence in society.

Starting at the bottom rungs of the ladder in the non-participative categories are Manipulation and Therapy.  These two are there to educate and cure the participant and to achieve public support through PR activities.

The next three rungs are in the Tokenism category and cover Informing, the one way flow of information, Consultation, the use of attitudinal surveys, meetings, public enquiries, but can be seen as a window dressing, before escalating to Placation, allowing citizens to give opinion or advise but holding on to the right to judge the legitimacy of that advice.

The real Citizen Power comes with the top three rungs of the ladder.  Partnership, the redistribution of power between citizens and the power holders with shared decision making.  Delegated Power, where the citizens now have the power to make decisions and assure accountability.  Citizen Control, where the participants hold the power for entire job planning, policy making and managing activities.

In the #bellringing context I can see definite elements of manipulation and therapy and informing, where we are providing information, guidance and exercises to educate and support.  We are currently undertaking various consultations to find out what people want from their #bellringing organisations.  I hope that we do not then use that to placate, but inform decision and policy making.  We have seen some great examples, particularly over the last 12 months or so or partnership, Association of Ringing Teachers, Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and The Ringing World working together.  We are certainly offering opportunities for Delegated Power in the workgroup structure, which allows anyone, even if they are not a Council member to participate and influence the direction we are taking, and providing expertise.  The Citizen Control might be a bit more tricky to manage wholescale, but there are pockets of activities that are directed by the ringers at a local level and we would want to support them with that.

No doubt there is room for improvement at every rung of the ladder, but it was interesting to note that we are on every rung. Where are you on the ladder?


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