Participation handbook

This handbook 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.

Delivery cycle

The delivery cycle describes the process of policy making in stages:

1. Visioning

2. Development

3. Appraisal

4. Decision making

5. Implementation

6. Evaluation

There are opportunities for participation across each stage of a policy delivery cycle. Different levels of participation will provide different types of information to policy and decision-makers at each stage of the delivery cycle. Choosing the best approach for your needs will require a clear understanding of the purpose of your engagement and the type of contribution you are asking participants to make.

To support your work across these stages, you may find it useful to draw on the National Standards for Community Engagement VOiCE software, designed to support the planning, delivery and review of well-constructed, managed and evaluated engagement.


The process of defining the agenda by identifying and understanding the issue to be addressed, and the wider context surrounding the process. This will also establish what is not in scope and what constraints may limit the ambition of an initiative.


The stage where issues are explored in more detail to generate options, recommendations or potential solutions. Participation at this stage allows people to have an input early, when it can be most valuable. If people are involved at too late a stage, decisions may have already been made that close off options or ideas which could be important to them.


The process of reviewing and evaluating options to measure support, identify problems and seek suggestions for amendment. This stage will end with a firm policy proposal. Most engagement by government currently takes place in this stage – asking people for their feedback on policies, proposals or upcoming decisions.

Decision making

The stage where a commitment is made to a particular policy or implementation strategy. Within our current system of government there are limited opportunities for direct participation in decision making, although there is a growing move towards more collaborative approaches to decision making and power sharing with partners.


Putting in place the services, strategies, policies or changes resulting from the decision. This is a practical stage and in most cases participation at this stage is a case of stepping into a new delivery cycle. The exception is when there is an opportunity to deliver with partners.


An assessment of the design, implementation and outcomes of an intervention. This enables learning, improvement, and can lessen the likelihood of repeating mistakes.



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