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The functions of evaluation research in citizen participation programs Perryman, Gavin Nicholas

Abstract

Two main questions form the backbone of this thesis: What is the meaning of citizen participation? What functions might evaluation research serve in citizen participation programs? Much of the thesis is an analysis of the literature in an attempt to explore the boundaries and different understandings of citizen participation. It is argued that the citizen participation phenomenon that arose in the 1960’s has its broad roots in the social strains and tensions brought about, or intensified, by the change processes of modern society, and that the rationales put forth for citizen participation are largely attempts to re solve these crises. The relationships between citizen participation as a strategy for achieving change and citizen participation as a lifestyle (or precursor of the participatory society) are explored. The thesis concludes that citizen participation is not an adequate dynamic for fundamental, structural change; although it has a key role to play through the processes of consciousness—raising and politicization. Two case studies are presented: the development of the Britannia Community Services Centre and the Policy Committees of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. In each case study, the functions that evaluation research performed, or might have per— formed, are examined. It is argued that evaluation research could be a useful tool in helping specific citizen participation programs achieve their goals, and in helping to develop further our understandings of citizen participation. Several general conclusions about effective implementation of citizen participation programs are drawn from the case studies. The importance of the process aspects of participation (opportunities for learning, social interaction, and making a positive contribution) is stressed. It is argued that the issues and the objectives of a citizen participation program need to be clearly defined early on in the process, and that the expectations of the various groups of actors must be laid out on the table. The thesis concludes that citizen participation in planning should be encouraged primarily at the regional level, and that it should be encouraged at the neighbourhood level only when the issues involved are clearly defined and the resources needed to implement the results of the planning process are available.

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