As you can imagine there's is not a unique form of participation (M. S. Reed, “Stakeholder participation for environmental management: A literature review,” (da), Biological Conservation, vol. 141, no. 10, pp. 2417–2431, 2008.). Participation can not only be distinguished between the triggering stakeholders that drive participation, but also between different objectives, intensities, stages of a project, forms/activities of participation and certainly topics.

Very famous is the Arnstein ladder of citizen participation (S. R. Arnstein, “A Ladder Of Citizen Participation,” (af), Journal of the American Institute of Planners, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 216–224, 1969.). The ‘Arnstein ladder‘ describes eight different categories of citizens´ participation that are categorized in three groups. Here citizens´ participation depends on the redistribution of power, starting with non-participation of citizens that are powerless and excluded from political decision-making and ending with empowerment resp. citizens' control.

Ladder of Participation Source: Arnstein 1969, p. 217 (S. R. Arnstein, “A Ladder Of Citizen Participation,” (af), Journal of the American Institute of Planners, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 216–224, 1969.)

Very often participation happens in the range between informing and partnership. Simplified citizens´ or public participation can be composed of:

Usually there are participation forms that are legally mandated. This very often applies to spatial planning, (transport) infrastructure, housing and environmental legislation (Justice and Environment. European Network of Environmental Law Organizations, Public participation in spatial planning procedures: Comparative study of six EU member states (en), and Centre for Comparative Housing Research, Review of European Planning Systems (af). Leicester. ). E.g. a local authority has to inform citizens about urban planning projects in an appropriate way.

We focus on optional and informal ways of citizens´ participation (e.g. workshops, round tables, voluntary work - see below) in railway related issues, because these can be easier implemented and are in principle feasible in different administrative system and project settings. In general optional forms of participation can countervail the decreasing opportunities of participation citizens have/feel during a project cycle. That appears because the above mentioned degrees or levels of decision making also depend at the stage of policy or project cycle from identification, design/planning, decision, implementation and maybe evaluation. As the project substantiates and comes to implementation the interest and need for communication increases, but the possibilities of engagement and influence decrease. Among other things this is due to the responsibility for a final decision which still remains at the public administration. By using a combination of different formal and in particular informal forms of participation throughout the whole project cycle you have a chance to stick to the local people.

Participation Paradox Source: Citizens’ Rail project team based on Reinert/ Sinning 1997

For the sake of completeness it has to be mentioned that there are certainly points of departure where public participation would not be serious:

“As long as there is room for change in the policy and the results of the engagement will make a difference, it is worth considering public engagement.” [6, Ch. 2]


Related reading about informal ways of citizens´ participation:

Evaluation subjectRegional railway example
ProductUse new rolling stock, implement new rail connections or improve frequency
ServiceModernise ticketing system, employ more staff at stations
ActionRefurbish station together with citizens, develop a citizens outreach and engagement strategy
ProjectBuild or improve station, develop and implement new marketing concept
Participation, Governance, OrganisationInvolve citizens in line or station development, implement discussion forum with rail stakeholders, establish a Community Rail Partnership
Programme, StrategyAdopt a regional rail funding strategy, reform public transport strategy
PolicyPass rail privatisation regulation, change rail regulation structures
Technology, ResearchUse mobile devices for customer information and ticketing, use online participation tools
Table 4: Subjects of evaluation Source: Citizens' Rail project team based on "Standards für Evaluation", DeGEval - Gesellschaft für Evaluation, 2008, p.15

Formative   Summative
Type of evaluationProactiveClarificativeInteractiveMonitoringOutcome evaluation
When?Pre-projectProject developmentProject implementationProject implementationProject implementation and post-project
Why?To understand or clarify the need for the projectTo make clear the theory of change that the project is based onTo improve the project's design (continual improvement) as it is rolled outTo ensure that the project activities are being delivered efficiently and effectivelyTo assess whether the project has met its goals, whether there were any unintended consequences, what were the learnings, and how to improve
Target?Appropriateness   Effectiveness, efficiency
Table 6: Evaluation types Source: National Centre for Sustainability NCS & Swinburne University (2001), p.5 14:5 after Owen/Rogers (1999); Government Social Research (GSR) Unit (2007), p.4f