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Participation & Sustainable Development in Europe

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In a participation process a rough distinction can be drawn between three phases:


  • Initiation
  • Preparation
  • Realization


This is the phase in which the idea of a particular participation process takes shape and the first steps toward realization are taken. Even at this early stage actions are possible that improve the process’s chances of success. This phase involves the following aspects (among others):


  • Gathering information about the issue in question and spreading this information among potential stakeholders and those who may be interested,
  • Clarifying the premisses for a participation process (e.g. legal regulations, deadlines etc),
  • Thinking over a strategy for the participation process
  • Defining key structural aspects (e.g. funding, division of responsibilities etc.).


At this stage important decisions about content and organization are taken; these have a decisive influence on the quality of a participation process – even though the actual process has not yet begun. The following points need taking into account (among others):


  • Aims and assignment must be clearly defined, and known to everyone involved. 
  • Potential stakeholders and those who may be interested must receive sufficient information and must be invited to take part. 
  • No later than now it must be decided who has how much influence on the course of the process, who is entitled to decide what, what will happen to the results and to what extent they will be binding. 
  • The financial framework and timescale, and the sequence of events during the process, must be clarified and put on record. 
  • Process design and management must be adapted to the issue in question, the financial framework and the timescale. 
  • Organizational aspects such as where to meet, technical equipment, catering etc. must be dealt with at the preparation stage.


What needs bearing in mind at the realization stage largely depends on the method selected / the process design, and on whether a competent facilitator accompanies the process and takes care of quality assurance. At all events the following points should be borne in mind:


  • All participants’ rôles and powers must be clear. 
  • Rules – in the sense of democratically reached agreements about the sequence of events, the rights and duties of the participants, and how people treat one another – make a vital contribution to the success of the realization stage. 
  • Special attention should be paid to how the flow of information between those taking part in the process is organized, and how the general public is kept informed, during realization.
  • The way in which the results achieved together are presented and implemented must be laid down clearly and unambiguously.


You will find more about the sequence of events in participation processes here:

>> Worksheet No. 1