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Participatory Evaluation within a Paradigm of Sustainability. Kyle Beidler CRP 484/584 2.19.02. Background. What is Participation? The act or state of participating, or sharing in common with others; as, a participation of joy. Community; fellowship; association.

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What is Participation?

  • The act or state of participating, or sharing in common with others; as, a participation of joy.
  • Community; fellowship; association.
  • Distribution; division into shares.

What is Participation?

  • The redistribution of power that enables “have-nots” excluded in the political and economic processes to deliberately be included in the future.
  • The conception of Empowerment: the ability to make decisions that control your own future.

Arnstein, Sherry R. 1969. A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners. 35 (4): 216-224.


Foundational Assumptions:

  • A participatory democratic process is fundamental in a collective shift towards sustainability. (Principle of Democratic Change)
  • Those affected by a decision should participate in the decision making process. (Politics of Inclusion)

Roseland, Mark. 1998. Toward sustainable communities. New Society

Publishers, Stony Creek, CT.


Based on these democratic principles:

  • How should grades be assigned for this course?
    • What should the extent (level) of participation be throughout the decision making process?
    • What kind (type) of participation should be involved ?
    • When (in which stages) should you or others participate?
    • What would facilitate participation?
    • What are the risks and barriers to broadening the extent of direct participation in grading decisions?
    • (Also think about the participatory process you propose versus the process you use you within your group.)
relationship with sustainability
Relationship with Sustainability
  • Thering and Doble (2000) suggest:
    • Sustainability is an emerging paradigm associated with a post-industrial worldview.
    • This worldview perceives the social structure as a non-hierarchical, web-like network.
    • Within this network, decisions are guided by participatory processes and behavior.
    • Thus, as a paradigm, sustainability represents a shift in our sciences, views, values, goals, and behaviors.

Thering, Sue and Doble, Cheryl. 2000. Theory and practice in sustainability.

Landscape Journal 19 (1+2): 191-200.

relationship with sustainability1
Relationship with Sustainability

Post-Industrial Paradigm




Webs & networks

Values and Goals

Sustainability within a context of growing social & ecological concerns



relationship with social capital
Relationship with Social Capital
  • This paradigm shift, which relies on participatory foundation, multiplies the importance of social capital (Roseland 1998).
  • However, this shift also implies a shift in type of behavior (Thering and Doble 2000).
  • Medieval hierarchies, traditional methods, and existing educational programs are unable to meet the needs of today’s communities centered of environmental and social thought of a post-industrial society.
  • Toady’s community needs include:
    • Multi-disciplinary approaches
    • Informed citizenry
    • Methods of sustainable evaluation
    • Processes of participatory decision making
  • Therefore, there is a need to develop a framework to evaluate existing decision making processes.
  • Evaluation concepts include:
    • The level of participation
    • The educational objective of participation
    • The type of participation
    • The stages of the participatory process
the levels of participation
The Levels of Participation

Arnstein, Sherry R. 1969. A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners. 35 (4): 216-224.

the objective of participation
The Objective of Participation

Bloom, Benjamin S. 1956. Taxonomy of cognitive objectives. New York,

David McKay Co.

the type of participation
The Type of Participation

Whitmore, Elizabeth. 1998. Understanding and practicing participatory evaluation. Jossey-Bass Publishers. San Francisco.

stages of participation
Stages of Participation

Seaman, Corrintha. 1998. Bioregional communication: Watersheds, community

participation and synchronicity. Thesis, Iowa State University.

stages of sustainability reporting
Stages of Sustainability Reporting
  • Maclaren’s stages of developing indicators:
    • One; Define urban sustainability goals
    • Two; Define the scope
    • Three; Choose an appropriate framework (i.e. issue based, sector base, etc.)
    • Four; Define selection criteria
    • Five; Identify potential indicators
    • Six; Evaluate and select final set
    • Seven; Collect and analyze data
    • Eight; Prepare and present report
    • Nine; Asses indicator performance

Maclaren, Virginia. 1996. Urban sustainability reporting. Journal of the American

Planning Association. 62(2); 184-202

visioning as a participatory process
Visioning as a Participatory Process

A Visioning process can be conceived as interactive participation with in a context of sustainability:

  • Bottom-up methods of participation promote dialogue and information diffusion. (Level of participation)
  • Participatory communication is interpreted as the means towards collective action. (Type of participation)
  • Citizen participation takes place throughout the entire planning process. (Degree of participation throughout the stages)
  • Within a paradigm of Sustainability, participation is not a one-dimensional process or goal.
  • As a result, several aspects need to be considered including; the level, type, and stages of participation. As well as, the existing power structure within communities.
  • More importantly, as a guiding behavior, participation also needs to be considered outside of the planning process and thus includes the evaluation of traditional educational objectives.