International Observatory on Participatory Democracy

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Participatory Democracy

Citizens’ participation has many functions in developing a strong system of local self-governance, as it is a central way to build awareness of the importance of the local structures and a means of understanding the concerns and desires of the community. Research also shows that development initiatives can be more successful when there is a feeling of ownership in projects through direct involvement in the key decisions that affect people most directly.

Although it can be difficult, complicated, time-consuming and sometimes impossible to promote citizens’ participation in decision making, when consensus-based decisions are made the results are often more legitimate and more widely accepted than decisions made by elected officials acting independently. This is known as the ‘slow–fast’ method of decision making, because consensus-building can be laboriously slow in the initial stages but once there is a broad agreement policy implementation can be fast and more effective.