Participation Framework

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.

Designing effective participatory engagements

This section of the Participation Framework supports taking decisions to design an engagement strategy that best meets your needs, the needs of those you are engaging with, and the needs of Ministers and decision makers.

Inclusive participation

High-quality participation work is relevant and purposeful, safe, kind, respectful, transparent, accountable, accessible and inclusive.

Participants involved are informed, empowered, and taking part voluntarily.

This framework is intended to support meeting these responsibilities by setting out what inclusive participation looks like. Key features of inclusive participation include:

  • designing engagements with people furthest from government in mind – this will result in approaches that everyone can successfully and meaningfully engage in
  • safeguarding equal access and providing logistical support (e.g. disability access, translators/translated materials, remuneration, expenses)
  • using specific methods and approaches to include groups or individuals who are less able or likely to participate.

Making sure participatory work is genuinely inclusive can be complex. It requires forethought, careful planning, and a clear vision of the longer term – including of outputs, impact, and how all this will be communicated to all involved.

Working in this way becomes easier when inclusivity is built into the day to day of our roles. Doing this may require a shift in how we work, for example being prepared and able to constructively challenge others (including senior leaders) when needed, and pro-actively advocating for people furthest from government.

Working in an inclusive way is key to building trust and benefitting the communities that you are working with – these are aims of participatory engagements that are equally important to the evidence and insight produced. First steps in building trust and benefiting communities focus on participants being able to make informed decisions about their involvement. This includes:

  • being honest and realistic about the scope of influence for each engagement
  • outlining what can and cannot be changed, and communicating this clearly to all involved
  • taking a transparent approach throughout all stages of an engagement, so that people participating have the fullest possible understanding of what is happening, why, in what context and with what consequences.

Representation of different groups of people in participatory work requires careful consideration. There are situations where a sample of participants that is representative of the general population will be suitable for a project's aims (for example, a Citizens' Assembly), but there will be many instances where this is not appropriate. Participatory work tends to focus on engaging with marginalised and under-represented groups to address specific issues or design specific services. Over-sampling or exclusively working with participants who have a particular characteristic or circumstance is an appropriate and valid approach.

You should discuss the practicalities of sampling and recruitment with your local Analytical Services Division.

Ensuring that participants are not left financially out of pocket for their involvement in your work is key. This includes covering the full range of expenses and, where appropriate, compensating people for their time. We will publish separate guidance on how to do this.

Designing and delivering inclusive participation is not a static process – you should expect to revisit questions of what inclusive work looks like, who is excluded and how this can be resolved.

Further resources:



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