Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny
Chapter 2: Participatory assessment: tools for empowering, learning and legitimating?
Since the 1960s, a large number of participatory assessment tools and methods have been developed for use in a wide variety of policy venues and fields. There are many opinions on what participatory tools are about. As will be explained, these relate in large part to ongoing debates about the goals of participation. Hence, there is no shared authoritative definition of participatory tools and this chapter has no intention of developing one. Rather pragmatically, it distinguishes between participatory methods, which refer to procedures, and participatory tools, which relate to steps in a procedure. Just as an authoritative definition of participatory assessment tools and methods is lacking, so too is consensus over the outcome they aim at. What they have in common and what makes them distinct from other (social) science methods and tools is that they assist in bringing people together at a specific location (which could include the Internet) and facilitate some sort of joint assessment (Hisschemöller 2005). Hence, the distinctive features of participatory methods and tools are that they facilitate dialogue as a way to come to grips with complex (unstructured) decision problems that cannot be addressed by scientific expertise alone.