The CLEAR tool (2009) exists to help local authorities and other organisations or groups at local level to understand better the public participation in their localities. It is a diagnostic tool which helps identify particular strengths and problems of participation. Once identified, comprehensive strategies for enhancing public participation can be drawn up to address the obstacles. Building community capacity or a sense of citizenship are not challenges for which policy makers can necessarily expect easy or quick results. However, the CLEAR framework does show that increasing local participation is possible: all the key factors it identifies, which encourage participation, are open to policy makers’ influence.
Local authorities can strengthen citizen participation. They can strengthen community life and cohesion, support social infrastructure and empower citizens to participate. The CLEAR tool, through its questionnaire, helps analyse different dimensions of participation.
The first part of this document contains the CLEAR self-assessment tool. The second part of the document is a “user’s guide to CLEAR”. It shows how the CLEAR framework can be used to analyse participation and explains how to use the CLEAR tool.
Five factors affecting citizen participation
Participation is most successful where citizens:
- Can do – that is, have the resources and skills and knowledge to participate;
- Like to – that is, have a sense of attachment that reinforces participation;
- Enabled to – that is, are provided with the opportunity for participation;
- Asked to – that is, are involved by official bodies or voluntary groups;
- Responded to – that is, see evidence that their views have been considered.
CLEAR – Questions to reflect on how you support community empowerment
In their Community Engagement and Empowerment guide for local councillors, I&DEA have adapted the framework to help those working in local authorities to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of your own engagement activities. It also allows you to examine your local decision-making structures and assess whether they have the qualities that allow you to listen to, and take account of, messages from citizen participation.
Can do -Do people have the resources and knowledge to participate?
- How do I give people information about what I am doing and how I can work with them?
- How do I tell people about the issues I am working on and how they can influence the council’s activities?
- How accessible am I?
- Do I make contact with community groups in my patch, including new groups, and individuals and groups who may feel disempowered?
Like to - Do people have a sense of attachment that reinforces participation?
- Do I tell people just how important it is for them to get involved in local decisions and what is in it for them?
- Do people identify with the patch I represent? Do they identify with the locality that my area forum covers? How do I encourage community groups to participate that don’t identify with the area? How do I communicate with community groups that don’t identify with the area?
- Do I tell people why their participation is needed and how it makes a difference to the whole community?
- Do I help to tell people which person or organisation is leading on issues that they are concerned about?
- Do I encourage people by telling them how outcomes can be changed if they get involved?
Enabled to - are people provided with the opportunity for participation?
- Do people know about local budgets that people and groups can access?
- Do officers, other councillors, the public and partners listen to each other and do something about the views expressed in my area?
- Is there a good understanding about what we can achieve together?
- Do people from different communities have a chance to meet together to discuss issues that affect others in the same neighbourhood?
- Do I go out of my way to meet people where they most feel comfortable and like to be rather than at set times in municipal buildings?
- How do I encourage interest among people who might not have been asked to be involved before?
- Do I have up-to-date knowledge of all the groups and organisations which exist and are active in my patch?
- What are my skills in working with community groups and local organisations? Do I know how can I improve them?
- What knowledge do I need to help me understand the issues for my local area and how can I get access to information that I need?
Asked to - are people mobilised by official bodies or voluntary groups?
- Who do I ask to get involved in local issues?
- How do I make sure they are not only the ‘usual suspects’?
- How do I ask them?
- How do I know what the issues are for local people?
- Where do I meet people who are not the ‘usual suspects’?
Responded to - Do people see evidence that their views have been considered?
- Do I use social media and other opportunities to help me to make contact with people?
- Do I put information online, use local discussion forums, blogging, and text messages?
- How do I tell people what progress has been made on the issues I am working on?
- How do I tell the public how their views have made a difference?
- Do I explain how the council has reached decisions, balanced views and taken different views into account?
Adapted from CLEAR: an auditing tool for citizen participation at the local level, Council of Europe 2009