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Centre for Citizenship Education – empowering citizens

The Ladder of Citizenship Participation

Citizen control means citizens handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds.
Delegated power means citizens hold a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated power to make decisions. The public now has the power to assure that programmes are accountable to them.
Partnership means power is redistributed through negotiation between citizen and power holders, and planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared.
Placation might, for example, include co-opting hand picked “worthy people” onto committees. It allows citizens to advise or plan, but retains for power holders the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.
Consultation is a further legitimate step, which can include attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public enquiries. Nonetheless, planner Arnstein feels this is still a token ritual.
Informing is a more important first step to legitimate participation. However, too frequently, the emphasis at this level is on a one way flow of information, with no channel for feedback.
Manipulation and therapy are both non-participative. The aim is to cure or educate the participants. The not so tacit implication is that the proposed plan is best, and the job of participation is to achieve public support by public relations.

The Centre for Citizenship Education is a non-government organisation established by Asia Pacific Research Unit (APRU), which works in cooperation with other promoters of a stronger civil society. Institutions and individuals interested in addressing the needs of, for example, youth, the aged, women, people with disabilities, migrants and indigenous peoples will all have a contribution to make. The Centre is now being strengthened and expanded under Establishment Director, Anthony Haas.
Inquiries about further activities, individual or corporate membership should be addressed to
For more on the expansion of our plans and updates,


The ladder of citizenship participation is defined by Sherry Arnstein in the Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation includes three degrees of citizen empowerment: non-participation, tokenism and citizen power. The three degrees of citizen empowerment are demonstrated by the eight distinct (and value laden) approaches to public involvement presented here as part of the Centre for Citizenship's contribution to citizenship education.

citizen control at the top of the ladder is empowerment, … too many citizens can only get onto lower rungs