PLA 58: Towards empowered participation: stories and reflections

This issue of Participatory Learning and Action focuses on deliberative democracy and reviews successes and failures in citizen involvement programmes.

Article, 31 May 2008
Participatory Learning and Action
A journal for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

June 2008

Guest-editors: Tom Wakeford and Jasber Singh

This issue has a reflective focus and follows on from the 40th issue which focused on participatory methods and approaches that seek to enhance deliberative democracy and citizen empowerment.

It critically reflects on those rarely-discussed elements of processes that are disempowering to those with least power. ‘Citizen participation’ has typically elicited enthusiastic support from policy elites. However, past editions of PLA and numerous other studies have suggested that such initiatives have rarely impacted the mainstream political decision-making processes. Often referred to as “citizen engagement” or “public consultation”, these processes may in reality be little more than smokescreens behind which the systems of democratic accountability fought for by progressive social movements over many decades are allowed to decay.

The overall aim of the issue is to allow practitioners to reflect on some of these aspects of participation. By fostering a deeper understanding of participation we hope to promote improved policies and practices. We believe the articles call for an increased global solidarity among those committed to transforming the power of oppressed peoples via participation. 

The issue is split into four sub-themes:

  • Citizens' juries and similar participatory processes: strengths and weaknesses
  • Participatory budgeting: lessons from Latin American and the UK
  • Gender issues and challenges of representation
  • Community activism from the grassroots

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Content can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the source is fully acknowledged. 

Follow the links below to download the whole issue or individual articles in pdf format.

Download the complete issue.



Themed article abstracts and online resources

Towards empowered participation: stories and reflections 
Tom Wakeford and Jasber Singh (guest editors)

Theme 1: Citizens' juries and similar participatory processes: strengths and weaknesses

The people’s vision: UK and Indian reflections on Prajateerpu 
Kavitha Kuruganti, Michel Pimbert, and Tom Wakeford

Mali’s Farmers’ Jury: an attempt to democratise policy-making on biotechnology 
Peter Bryant

The UK Nanojury as ‘upstream’ public engagement 
Jasber Singh

Citizens’ juries in Burnley, UK: from deliberation to intervention 
Elham Kashefi and Chris Keene

Community x-change: connecting citizens and scientists to policy makers 
Nigel Eady, Jasber Singh, Alice Taylor-Gee, and Tom Wakeford

Hearing the real voices: exploring the experiences of the European Citizens’ Panel 
Peter Bryant, Niall Fitzduff, Gwen Lanigan, and Catherine Purvis

Shorts: Four brief analyses of citizens’ juries and similar participatory processes

  • a. Ignoring and suppressing grassroots participation in a northern English town 
    Tom Wakeford , Bano Murtuja, and Peter Bryant
  • b. The art of facipulation? The UK government’s nuclear power dialogue 
    Transcript of UK TV’s Channel 4 News, 19th September, 2007
  • c. Genetically Modified Meetings: the Food Standards Agency’s citizens’ jury
    Extract from a report from the Policy Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre, Newcastle University , UK
  • d. If we have time, motivation and resources to participate, does that mean we gain authority and power? 
    Right 2B Heard Collective and Swingbridge Video

Theme 2: Participatory budgeting: lessons from Latin America and the UK 

The watering down of participatory budgeting and people power in Porto Alegre, Brazil 
Daniel Chavez

Participatory budgeting in the UK: a challenge to the system? 
Heather Blakey

Theme 3: Gender issues and challenges of representation

The Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS: from principle to practice? 
International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS

Understanding local difference: gender (plus) matters for NGOs 
Nazneen Kanji and Su Fei Tan

The ivory tower and beyond: Bradford University at the heart of its communities 
Jenny Pearce, Martin Pearson, and Sam Cameron

Theme 4: Community activism from the grassroots

The changing face of community participation: the Liverpool black experience 
David Clay

Community participation: ‘activists’ or ‘citizens’? 
Jackie Haq

Girijana Deepika: challenges for a people’s organisation in Andhra Pradesh, India

General Section

On the road to change: writing the history of technologies in Bolivia 
Jeffery W. Bentley and Graham Thiele

Roses and people: exploring sustainable livelihoods in the Rose valley, Bulgaria 
Preslava Nenova

Phila Implio! Live Life! Ways to healing for children in long-term hospital care 
Louise Chawla and Jill Kruger

Tips for Trainers: Democracy Walls 
Giacomo Rambaldi

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