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Tina Nabatchi, Suyeon Jo and Matt Leighninger

This chapter begins by examining the current state of participation in American public administration. Specifically, it defines public participation, clarifies the differences between indirect and direct participation, and examines the three most prominent categories of direct public participation—conventional, thin, and thick—exploring their strengths and weaknesses. It then turns to history, examining moments in time that shaped how participation is used in public administration. It pays particular attention to disconnects between participatory processes and the formal structures and systems of government. Finally, the chapter looks to the future, exploring what it will take to build better participation infrastructures for twenty-first century democracy.