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What Constitutes Effective Citizen Participation in Local Government? Views from City Stakeholders

PAQ, Vol. 35 No. 1, (2011)

Citizen participation in local government has been advocated as an effective method to reduce the level of citizen distrust and to educate citizens about governmental activities. Yet there is little research on what constitutes ―effective‖ participation. This article advances our understanding of the value of citizen participation in local government budgeting by offering three perspectives on effective participation, as articulated by those most directly involved in the process: elected officials, local government staff, and citizens. Perceptions of citizen participation were captured through a series of forty telephone interviews in four cities across North Carolina. Differences were not found across cities, but across stakeholder groups. Elected officials regard effective participation as being passive and channeled through elected officials, in the spirit of traditional representational government. Staff sees effective participation coming from educated citizen advocates. Citizens see effective participation as being interactive, in the spirit of direct democracy.

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