This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Digging Systematically Deeper into Designing for a Public Participation Process

So far, in digging deeper into a systemic approach to a Collective Impact effort, we have focused on a process to Amplify the Voices of Community Members through the concepts for Designing for a Public Participation Process system. We have looked, narratively, at both the overall aspects and the internal aspects of such a system.

This inclination to dig deeper into some of the material making up the Living Cities Collective Impact online course has led to the creation of a new map, using a different design to illustrate Designing Public Participation Processes, consisting of four different aspects of the system, suggested by the Designing for a Public Participation Processes article, with each including three of the article's twelve design guide elements.

The Overall Aspect or perspective is how the Designing for a Public Participation Process system works in achieving its stated goal or purposes. Mousing over the “Overall Aspects” text in the narrative box of the map will highlight that section of the map. Underneath it is the three design guidelines seen as being part of this specific aspect. These particular guidelines are seen as being closely related to each other. This is a different functional perspective from the “Internal Aspects” of the system. These and the other two aspects are all part of the same total system and it would make little to no sense to isolate any of them.

These are not the physical components of the system, like the engine of a car, but different perspectives of the functions of the system. A car has a subsystem which provides the necessary power for movement. It could be gasoline, electric or Hydrogen powered but to be mobile, the car needs a means of propulsion to be incorporated into its design.

The maps used so far have been composites consisting of elements, containing various resources, related or connected together. Each element, whether a blog post, journal article, video, organization, or other resource is connected to others based on a graphic organizing of the Living Cities Collective Impact course, with a few other resources added in.

The Designing for a Public Participation Processes map defines relationships differently. It reflects a single, integral system, taking different perspectives on various, separate functions of that system. There is more of a functional relationship between elements, either through belonging to common system aspects or active, mutual connections. What has not been developed are causal connections or loops as used in previous efforts.

There are no connections displayed from inside the system to outside the system. The nature of the outside boundary is defined both by the system and by the environment or community in which it exists. The boundary of the system is permeable but the exact manner of connections across it is not specified. Some individual elements can belong or relate to both within the system and outside of it. All elements or aspects of the system are directly or indirectly related to each other. Some, but not all of these have been identified and displayed.

Conflicts or breakdowns in connections are as important. Conflicts do not exist within the system, these would be better designated breakdowns. Conflicts, originating outside the system though could be manifested as intended breakdowns within the system. Conflicts, such as those cited by the article about the authenticity and legitimacy of the participation processes, which would cross the boundary of the system, could stem from different expectations rather than purposely attempting to manipulate the participation process.

In the past, this blog has railed against the notion of concrete results. Russell L. Ackoff in Toward a System of Systems Concepts spoke though of concrete systems. There is, however, no disagreement between the two. A so-called concrete result is a supposed state within a moment of time of a concrete system, meaning a system that contains at least two elements which are objects. The Design for Public Participation system is mostly an abstract system, meaning it is made up of concepts which are defined in large part by the relationship between them and preset assumptions, axioms or postulates.

There are also agents involved in the system. It is a purposeful system, which Ackoff defined as one that can, “…produce the outcome in different ways in the same (internal or external) state and can produce different outcomes in the same and different states". More importantly, it is also an Ideal-seeking system requiring consideration of differences between goals, objectives, and ideals and some concepts related to them. This puts it more in line with the Deliberative Systems map than with the Institutional Democratic Theory map cited in Creating Democracy is Complex, which means there is an inherent tension. How it could be integrated into the Deliberative Systems map and where it could be placed in the Integrative Deliberative Systems map would depend upon the final manifested design.

How this might play out, in reality, can be demonstrated through another systems thinking modeling tool, an InsightMaker model titled, New Community Paradigms Entrenched City Halls. The Design for Public Participation system could be seen as navigating between the Overt Reality and Underlying Reality of that process.

There also needs to be an aspect which provides foundational, infrastructure or support for the various elements, going beyond each separate aspect.

Foundational Aspects

7. Creating an appropriate set of rules to guide the overall work to be done, operational decision making, and a project management team structure to facilitate if needed. This, as the article asserts, involves recognition of rules, the substance of rules, and structures for enforcing rules.

Who gets to be involved in decision making and in what ways, regarding operational rules, general policies about the work to be done, and constitutional rules regarding who gets to make what kinds of decisions are based on influences prior to and outside the system. The rules, as part of the system, could help provide a pathway to the system's goals of allowing a process for participants, all participants not only a few, to build commitment among themselves, make or contribute to important decisions and self-monitoring.

8. Securing adequate resources and designing and managing participation processes to generate additional resources to produce a generally favorable benefit-cost ratio for the participation process.

Implementing a public participation designed to be inclusive of different self-interests and motivations to address problems, could generate unexpected resources, such as knowledge, commitment to follow-through, and enthusiasm, for decision making and policy implementation. Participants may provide new information and new ways of understanding issues generating better projects and policies, securing buy-in for decisions, limiting delays, mistakes, and lawsuits and enhancing government–community trust, social capital, and infrastructure for ongoing community action. These are difficult metrics to quantify and control though.

9. Establishing the legitimacy of the participation process, for both internal and external stakeholders, as an effective form of engagement and a source of trusted interaction among participants. The form that participation takes must be seen as:

  1. Legitimate by key stakeholders 
  2. Able to attract internal and external support and resources 
  3. Producing interactions building trust and legitimacy among participants 
  4. Promoting necessary communication 
The article cites the International Association for Public Participation or IAP2’s widely used community engagement continuum of goals, as featured in the first module and the nature of promises to be made to stakeholders and the community as first brought up in the post, Beginning an Exploration of Collective Impact.

For each strategy, regarding different levels of permitted participation, there are different kinds of engagement ranging from ignoring, engaging as a data source, informing, consulting, involving, collaborating, and finally to empowering stakeholders to make all decisions themselves. This also implies the use of different kinds of tools and techniques.

Logistically, a project management team, as mentioned above, could also be required for important, broader scale, and more time-consuming processes. This has been made a distinct element of the map. It could include sponsors, champions, and facilitators, as well as others. It would also lead to a need for adequate support staff and other resources to function effectively, depending on the scope and scale of the process, challenging a favorable benefit-cost ratio outcome. There will also be another aspect providing more of the actual interface with the community. Both will be examined more closely in the next post.

Past Posts