Participation & Democracy


Participation & Democracy

Trials and Tribulations: who engages with our initiatives? Why? Who does not? Why? What methods work the best and those which do not?

Location: Ireland
Members: 20
Latest Activity: Sep 9, 2011

Discussion Forum

Collaborative Planners 1 Reply

Started by Bridget Kirwan. Last reply by James Derounian Jul 15, 2010.

Democracy and Sustainable Communities: compatibility or incompatibility? 1 Reply

Started by Bridget Kirwan. Last reply by Bernard Joyce Aug 19, 2009.

How do you make collaborations work well?

Started by Lisa Welshman Feb 12, 2009.

Participation and Democracy Key Resources

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Comment by Darren Hill on April 28, 2010 at 11:16

I typed Beyond Democracy when I meant Beyond Elections. I guess my mistake led you to Sociocracy - which appears relevant and interesting..
Comment by Bridget Kirwan on April 28, 2010 at 9:43
Based on Darrens e.mail.. this utube video explains what this Socioocracy is about..
Comment by Bridget Kirwan on April 28, 2010 at 9:18
Hi there,
As you know we are dealing with a financial crisis in Ireland at the moment and there is a lot of pressure on serving politicians to forgoe the pensions which they have accumulated in the past and which they are entitled. The pressure of public opinion has led to the EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn to give up her pension payments and all the sitting Senators and TDs have done so today. It is interesting to see how this is operating.
Comment by Darren Hill on April 28, 2010 at 8:43
For some reason the link didnt come up on my last post
Comment by Darren Hill on April 28, 2010 at 8:42
I recently watched the film Beyond Democracy on youtube - very interesting to see experiences with democracy and participation in the Americas

Comment by shan ashton on August 18, 2009 at 17:42
Hi Guys Having to re-join all as my membership was disrupted there for some time...back on-line now Shan
Comment by Kate Braithwaite on April 1, 2009 at 16:21
Hi Chris
good to meet up in Dublin
Here is a reflection having sat in on a Community Planning Partnership meeting in Co. Offaly on one of my visits! It seemed that the elected representatives were quite at ease in 'giving away' decision making power to local communities - they did not seem to see it as a threat to their democratic legitimacy and rather found the community engagement process as helpful to them as councillors because it armed them with strong evidence of local priorities. This is however, quite rare in my expereince. Once elected, many councillors seem to think that they are the one true conduit for the local voices. Maybe this is just a skills issue - and that newly elected representatives should experience excellent community engagement as part of their induction programme. So, Chris, how was it achieved in Offaly?
Comment by Shakeel on April 1, 2009 at 13:36
Charter for Democracy-In Pakistan its working now.
We are witnessing visible effect of charter for democracy as we are at infancy in democracy.
Comment by Chris McInerney on February 11, 2009 at 22:00
Reading the comments about planning and consultation exercises and the difficulties and challenges involved in them causes me to wonder if we don't need to first take a step back to try to locate these activities within some sort of broader democracy context. Partly I think that some of the difficulties encountered in citizen / resident involvement in planning, particularly where there are statutory or political partners, arises from the fact that many of these partners are not convinced of the value of such involvement. More importantly though, I'm not convinced that they have any great sense that exercises such as participatory planning are or should be valid parts of a healthy and thriving democracy. Sometimes, they are nearly treated as a favour. Equally though, it may be the case that community participants do not see their involvement as part of the democratic process or as a democratic right and therefore do not feel that they can demand more of it.

All of this I suppose makes me wonder if planning / consultation exercises, need to be supported by a preparatory phase that addresses the democratic function of planning processes and sets them up as exercises in democracy and democratic renewal. And god knows, right now, democratic renewal is something that we dearly need. We have perhaps too easily allowed the notion of democracy to be limited to elections and representation, representation that generally has met the needs of particular interests and social groups, whose influence behind the scenes might actually be described as highly undemocratic. Isn't it ironic that despite so much of the current environmental and economic crisis being due to the excessive control of democratic processes by businesse interests that they are still so influential in decision making - in Ireland at any rate. And how many examples are there of planning processes being subverted by unseen influence and networking.
But then again, it is also possible that participation and planning exercises end up just doing the same thing - faciliting certain groups to have their views heard and missing those whose voices are not as strong. I've seen some describe this, in the South especially, as "elite capture",
So I suppose what I'm wondering is:
- can we take more time to reflect on the state of our democracies and why it is that these democracies have lost sight of their original ambitions of freeing
people from oppression and promoting freedom. Why have we let the practice of democracy become so narrow.
- can we do anything to develop planning processes that help to address the growth of disillusionment with politics and politicians and with bureaucracy and bureaucrats.
- what can we do to change / challenge the culture of bureaucrats and bureaucracy so that they see participation in planning as being of democratic value and as a democratic right.
- and finally, is there a way to influence political parties to move beyond their own interests to embrace a wider and deeper vision of democracy (or am I just too naive or idealistic)

Answers on a postcard to.......
Comment by Bridget Kirwan on February 11, 2009 at 17:11
This is a huge question with many dimensions and many potential answers (or partial answers). There are long term questions around building capacity in community to enable the participants engage in this level of reactivation.
There probaably is s key question about what is the ideal state that the community could get to and how many resources it currently has to deal with its own issues.
We did an evaluation of a project in a community in Castlecomer in Co. Kilkenny which lost its biggest employer -(having in a previous generation lost its Coal Mining employer) and in Ireland when this type of event happens there is usually a Task Force set up. The difference with this task force was that the model that they created was based on two elements - an existing Community Development initiative which was then supplemented by an Enterprise Development Task Force. The Enterprise Task force employed an Enterprise Development Worker for two years and the membership of the task force was made up of decision makers in agencies who could support (in real terms) the initiatives of the community. This model enabled enterprise initiatives to cut through red tape and make the change happen.
At another level one of the communities that we worked with in the last Integrated Area Planning Project was a small community located at a junction on a very busy road moving traffic and people from North to South. The energy for engagement for this group came from the Gun Club who were the only active group in the area but were willing to act as catalysts to creat a more integrated area plammimg group which was the structure used to create task groups and make the plan. They have alread set up a child care group and a Scouts group and have made some progress on a Health Care Centre.
I realise that this is a very short few lines with some ideas that may be useful.
In our own conversations here we are looking at the engagement with the official Planning Process which has been a key part of how we have approached the IAP process in the past. The culture of the organisation and the formal policies which inform the process of consultation of the planners does not sit easily with the way that communities work here. As a result we feel that there is a need to influence policy and practice changes to anable the two systems to sit better together.

This is just a sketch of the ideas please let me know if I can be of further help.


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