Earlier this month I shared some thoughts on 5 ways to improve citizen engagement. After writing that post and all the great conversation, I decided to take a step back and reflect back on the levels of citizen engagement. I was reminded of some literature I had read by Sherry Arnstein on the various “rungs” of citizen engagement. Arnstein published the theory in 1969, and although the way that government engages with citizens has drastically changed due to changes in technology, Arnstein’s “Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Participation,” are still applicable today, and fascinating to consider.
Below is an image showing the eight rungs of citizen participation. At the bottom, Arnstein describes therapy and manipulation as forms on non-participation, followed by informing, consultation, placation, as “degree of tokenism” and finally, partnership, delegated power, citizen control as “degree of citizen power.”