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This Fieldbook introduces the theory and practice of working with others in intraorganizational, inter-organizational, and community settings. The general focus is on how an organization or community can use participation to achieve the common good or create public value as a result of a change effort. Examples include a policy change or a new or modified program, project, service, or other initiative.
As we grappled with the desires of communities and students to learn how to engage people in decision making, the idea for the Fieldbook emerged. The literature on participation tends to be either theoretical or nuts-and-bolts, but not both, and is often inadequate for our purposes. We are great fans of both the power and practicality of good theory. The great philosopher Bertrand Russell said, "Abstraction is the source of all power." And psychologist Kurt Lewin said, "There is nothing quite so practical as a good theory." (Many regard Lewin as the founder of small-group research and inventor of action research; see Johnson and Johnson, 2002.) But theory without guidance on how to apply it to specific situations can be impotent. In other words, if you can't figure out how to apply the theory, it can't be very powerful or practical.
So we kept asking the question, "What should a practitioner do--and why, with whom, how, when, and where?" Little in the literature provides satisfactory answers to all of the questions. While individual practitioners bring slices of personal experience and preferences that provide anecdotal guidance, it is not clear how and why to apply the advice to other situations. These valuable bits and pieces of theory and practical advice need a useful synthesis or integration.
This Fieldbook provides a synthesis of much of the theory, concepts, design guidance, tools, and other resources we think participation process designers and implementers need to succeed. Practitioners will not need everything in the Fieldbook all the time, but they will have a resource that covers the bases and will help them think through what they need in specific circumstances. The Fieldbook is not meant to be a substitute for important works from the scholarly literature or for years of experience; it is meant to be a bridge between theory and practice.
Our experience with the Fieldbook indicates that it helps leaders (and potential leaders) keep track of key concepts, tasks, design issues, tools and techniques, and in that way makes its own small contribution toward advancing the common good and creating public value. We hope you find it useful as well!
John M. Bryson and Anne R. Carroll
The Fieldbook is based on the following assumptions, each of which is grounded in our own experience designing and implementing participation processes:
In the following sections we discuss how we have dealt with these assumptions.
While participation is a very complex phenomenon, both theoretically and practically, we believe there are a finite number of "building blocks" on which effective participation is built and that can be used to tailor responses to specific situations. The table of contents of the Fieldbook presents our view of the building blocks and is broken down into five parts:
Each part consists of an introduction and a number of sections, each of which includes an overview and a number of handouts, exercises, and worksheets. The individual handouts, exercises, and worksheets often contain source citations to relevant academic and practitioneroriented readings, and we also have included a list of relevant readings.
Because participation is a complex phenomenon, having a useful framework is necessary in order to think wisely and effectively about how to design, foster, and manage an effective participation process. Our framework includes several elements.
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