This Framework provides a guide to good practice in participation work across Scottish Government. It provides information about participatory methods and when to use them, the development of an effective participation strategy, and signposts to further resources.
Basics of participation
Participation is an umbrella term used to describe how people get involved in decisions which affect or are important to them. This can be in their local communities, as part of interest group campaigns, or in government policies and decisions.
We support public participation by:
- creating opportunities for meaningful participation when the outcomes of policy and service design can be influenced
- considering and using the results of participation activities as part of our policy and decision-making processes
- feeding back to participants and the wider public the results of participation activity and the difference it has made.
This Participation Framework was developed as part of Scotland's Open Government commitments to improve the way people are involved in policy-making and service delivery.
This Framework is a toolkit that you can refer to as needed to help make decisions about participation within your policy area. It guides good practice in participation across government by:
- informing you about participation, participatory methods and when to use them
- providing a guide to developing an effective participation strategy
- supporting informed conversations with colleagues and analysts to develop and deliver effective participation
- signposting to further resources.
The Scottish Approach
Providing opportunities for people to participate in ways that will influence policy, service design and decision making is a fundamental part of the Scottish Approach to Government.
The drive to increase participation in and with government rests on two key principles:
- that people have the right to contribute to, and to influence, the decisions that affect their lives, choices and life chances
- that involving the people likely to be affected by the decision in the process results in better decision making.
The distinctive Scottish Approach is characterised by moves towards embedding more participatory, co-productive and assets-based approaches at the core of how government operates. It recognises the important role that people have in bringing different types of knowledge and experiences to address the challenges faced by government.
Improving opportunities for participation means moving away from 'doing to' or 'doing for' towards a culture of 'doing with'.
Open Government commitment
Participation is one of the three key pillars of the international Open Government movement, led by the Open Government Partnership. The Open Government Partnership's declaration of principles, to which we are a signatory, describes the commitment to supporting participation as:
We value public participation of all people, equally and without discrimination, in decision making and policy formulation. Public engagement, including the full participation of women, increases the effectiveness of governments, which benefit from people's knowledge, ideas and ability to provide oversight. We commit to making policy formulation and decision making more transparent, creating and using channels to solicit public feedback, and deepening public participation in developing, monitoring and evaluating government activities."
Doing participation well
Effective and well managed participation of people in policy development and implementation from the earliest possible opportunity leads to decisions that:
- deliver more efficient and effective services
- better meet people's needs
- better reflect community values
- have a greater likelihood of effective implementation
- demonstrate accountability (particularly in relation to the use of public money).
- When not done well, it can damage the reputation of the specific initiative and of the government as a whole, by:
- reducing trust in government – when the results of participation are not seen to be acted upon
- building stakeholder frustration in situations where external organisations and individuals feel they have already given representations on the issue previously
- reducing the likelihood of future participation – when people feel their contributions have not been considered, or they have not received feedback about how their input has been used
- not meeting legal requirements – there are some policy areas where an Act sets out specific mechanisms for how and when engagement must be carried out
- undermining previous undertakings, commitments or practices which have given certain people or groups a legitimate expectation that they would be invited to contribute
- being an inefficient use of public money e.g. when there is already clear and available evidence on the views of stakeholder groups or the wider public on the issues.
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