A Manager's Guide to Evaluating Citizen Participation

Tina Nabatchi, Syracuse University IBM Center for The Business of Government


This report is designed to assist public managers with the evaluation of their citizen participation projects and programs. The report first explores the concept of direct citizen participation in public administration, broadly defined as “the process[es] by which members of a society (those not holding office or administrative positions in government) share power with public officials [e.g., agency managers and officials] in making substantive decisions” related to a particular issue or set of issues (Roberts 2008a). The report then examines the importance of citizen participation, as well as the needs for and challenges of evaluating citizen participation. Next, the report provides a brief overview of the steps in program evaluation. The report then turns to practical, non-prescriptive approaches for evaluating citizen participation. The report emphasizes the use of practical, ongoing strategies to plan, improve, and demonstrate the results of citizen participation, and specifically encourages the use of process and impact evaluations that are integrated with routine program operations.