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Climbing the Ladder of Participation: Establishing Local Policies for Participatory Practice

Author: MARGARET STOUT
Published in PAM, Vol. 15 No. 1

This paper chronicles in rich detail the difficult path of institutionalizing participatory practice in local governance policies through community planning efforts in Tempe, Arizona spanning over fifteen years (1989 to 2007) of citizen/practitioner involvement. This All-America City (2003, National Civic League) in the Phoenix metropolitan area is a case study in how collaborative efforts among citizens, grassroots organizers, nonprofit organizations, and advocate city staff led to the adoption of public policies guiding citizen engagement in community development activities on the part of both public and private actors. While the achievement of a formal statement of democratic intent is a substantive benchmark that can serve as an exemplar for other local governments, this case also shows how technique can become tyranny, giving only ritualistic attention to participatory practice in the face of economic pressures and political directives.

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