Arnstein's Ladder of Participation - Workshop

29th June 2016

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To introduce the Ladder of Participation and to encourage participants to explore the spectrum of engagment and participation, where they think the group sits on the ladder and in an ideal world where they would like to be.




1. Split participants into two groups, ensuring that there is a good mix of sectors in each group (if you have larger numbers you may want to consider splitting into 3 or 4 groups).

2. Place all the word sheets from the ladder of participation on the floor; not in the order that they actually go in.

3. Ask each group to place the words in an order that they think would demonstrate a spectrum of community engagement.

4. Give each group about 5 minutes to do this.

5. Ask each group to review the other’s ladder and then to move back into their own group.

6. Give out the ladder handout and the definitions and give each group 10 minutes to read the definitions and discuss.

7. Facilitate a brief discussion on the main points that came out of each group and flipchart.

8. Place A3 ladder on the wall and ask each individual to mark, with a blue dot, where on the ladder they think the group is currently in terms of fully engaged communities.

9. Ask each individual to mark, with a red dot, where on the ladder they think the group should be (ideal world) in terms of community engagement.

10. View the difference and facilitate a discussion around the difference between where it is and where they think it should be. Agree one level where they would like to be by this time next year.

11. In small groups again ask each individual to consider 3 ideas that will get them to the stage on the ladder where they would like to be. Share with others in the group and agree 3 steps to share with the full group.

12. Feedback in large group. Flipchart ideas, group ideas and then agree three overarching steps that will get participants where they want to be in a year’s time.

This exercise is based on Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation, Originally published as Arnstein, Sherry R. "A Ladder of Citizen Participation," JAIP, Vol. 35,No. 4, July 1969. However, it also borrows from the UNDP Guidance on Participation.

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