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Everyone has his own believe of what citizen participation is : a research into what citizen participation means and contains in current society

Elderink, A. (2015) Everyone has his own believe of what citizen participation is : a research into what citizen participation means and contains in current society.

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Abstract:Government communication has gone from a one-way type of communication, to what we now know as citizen participation: giving citizens the possibility to influence municipality tasks and policy. However, there seems to be some ambiguity concerning what citizen participation is. Is it the municipality working together with citizens, or is it citizens taking care of themselves? This research found out if the current theory about citizen participation is still relevant, and if local civil servants and citizens are aligned regarding their view on citizen participation, by answering the following research question: What do citizens and local civil servants of a municipality in the East of the Netherlands think about the current situation of citizen participation, both in terms of causes, as well as in design and results? Thirty interviews were conducted with local civil servants and citizens between the age of twenty and thirty-five. The age group was chosen, because there was an expectation of citizen participation undergoing changes, and because changes are first adopted by the younger and the less experienced generation. Further, the distinction between two respondent groups was made because a comparison can be made that way, in order to see if the implementation of citizen participation is complete. This choice is based on the believe that implementation takes place in two steps: first the theoretical part, and second the practical part, which exists of first the internal network (local civil servants) and second the external network (citizens). Looking at the results, most outstanding is the fact that local civil servants seem to be more familiar and aligned concerning citizen participation, than citizens seem to be. However, this does not mean local civil servants have reached complete alignment. Both respondent groups need a better understanding of the definition of citizen participation, to be able to distinguish it better from other phenomena. Further, a difference between local civil servants and citizens, is the fact that citizens seem to focus more on their own situation and benefits, while local civil servants focus on the bigger picture, trying to benefit everyone as equally as possible. Third main result is the fact that society, local civil servants and citizens seem to be not (yet) ready for citizen participation. Citizens don’t think they need to be participating; local civil servants are not ready for a lot of participators and there is not even an actual policy. Putting all the results together, the conclusion drawn for this research is the following: citizen participation is not nearly the clearly defined and common accepted phenomenon as some make it appear. To make citizen participation more natural and generally accepted, three steps have to be taken. First, a better definition and framing of citizen participation should be determined. Second, the municipality should try to make the citizen look wider, not focusing solely on their own situation. And third, society should be made more ready for citizen participation, by providing citizens a clearly defined policy, and better guidance and more room for influence. This research and its conclusions however does come with some remarks/limitations. Most is important is that all conclusions drawn can only be given as statement, without any motivation. This is because the research was not designed in such a way that respondents were asked about motivations behind these kinds of statements. The conclusion-section however did show the importance of these statements. When having asked about motivations behind these statements, a better advice on how to change citizen participation (and its surrounding aspects) could be formulated. Future research trying to find out these motivations is therefore encouraged.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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