Citizen Participation, There Are Several Article Review

Excerpt from Article Review :

A metaphor is used to describe this relationship, Schachter says, because it creates a situation where we can see if a different way of viewing citizen roles shifts the emphasis to necessary changes for improving the effectiveness of government.

One of the major topics Schachter addresses in Reinventing Government or Reinventing Ourselves is the semantic and methodical framing of reform efforts. She speculates about how effective reform efforts would be in the case that their focus was on modifying the structure of government, rather than modifying the patterns of the behavior of the public. Schachter additionally wonders if administration reform efforts should aim at modifying people's perceptions of themselves, and suggests that if people were taught to perceive themselves as true "owners" of the government, "efforts to improve government efficiency and responsiveness [might] be more successful" (p. 179).

H. George Frederickson is a scholar at the forefront of the public administration field, and was one of the first academics to question and criticize Schachter's model for using a metaphor that didn't quite fit. Frederickson held that it was wrong to assert that citizens are customers in the public-government relationship. Instead, he argued that the citizenry owned the government and elected its leaders to represent the public's interests. Frederickson further argued that Schachter's metaphor was inappropriate by pointing out that the customer-owner model places citizens in a reactive role, "where they are limited to liking or disliking services and hoping that the administrators will change delivery if enough customers object" (p.179). Citizens as owners, on the other hand -- which Frederickson feels is a more appropriate characterization -- play an active role, and indeed decide the government's agenda through voting powers and participation.

The authors appear to have brought this debate over semantics into their discussion of citizen participation models because they hold that the language we use to classify our interaction and relationship with public administrators and elected officials has a strong influence on our behavior. It further has a strong influence on informing the general ways in which we interact with government. Language, the authors point out, can influence whether citizens' relationship with government is passive, engaged, confrontational, or cooperative.

David H. Rosenbloom, another distinguished academic, also takes slight issue with Schachter's term. In Schachter's customer model, she views the public as passive benefactors or consumers of governmental services, interacting mainly by complaining or transacting. The relationship is largely a one-way street -- the citizens merely looking for what the government can offer them. But if citizens are indeed customers, says Rosenbloom, they might not be very good members of the public. Further, encouraging citizens to see themselves as customers of their government may lead to "poor civic health," because if a citizen is viewed not as an active individual in a citizen community, but instead as a potential free rider, "then comity and cooperation may be put at greater risk" (p. 179).

The authors argue, conversely, that focusing on citizens as owners of government may be an effective way of maintaining good civic health because in this model the public sees itself as having the responsibility to be active in creating more effective government services, solving issues and taking part in the decision-making process, challenging the actions of their elected representatives, and holding their government accountable.

But there are critics to the owner model. They hold that stressing a moral duty to take responsibility for government does not align with what's necessarily practical for the average citizen. So, in theory, citizens may own the government, but in reality, it can be difficult for citizens to act as the owner in the model that expects active, continuous participation and interaction with public officials.

The authors move on to a citizen as a shareholder model of participation. This model of citizen participation is an alternative to the customer and owner models just previously discussed. It is value-centered and focused on the value of government and elected representatives to the public. In the citizen as a shareholder model of participation, both public administrators and the public play active roles. They are engaged and concerned with creating value for citizens. Seen as investors and shareholders in the public trust and community well-being,...
...[and] co-invest their resources in the community and government, from which they expect to receive value" (p.180). This co-investing may take the form of financial support for the maintenance and improvement of a recreational park, time spent on serving for a school committee because it benefits their children, and support of quality education after their children have stopped using the educational system because they care to maintain a positive education tradition for the community's children. This shareholder metaphor insinuates that the creation of wealth and well-being in a community is a participative venture "that involves partnership, co-investment, common interest, cooperation, and sharing among citizens as co-owners of government" (p. 180).

Gerald Smith and Carole Huntsman were among the first to promote this value-centered model, and it builds on the strengths of both the previously mentioned owner and customer citizen participation models. But in Smith and Huntsman's model, the public consists of shareholders of the community enterprise while the government acts as the shareholders' trustee. This role of government as trustee does delegate to it a certain amount of ethical responsibility and moral character. Indeed, in Smith and Huntsman's model, citizens view their elected representatives not only as effective managers of collective resources, but as respected and trustworthy administrators of the public trust.

The authors speculate: if we view citizen participation through the lens of the citizen as a shareholder model of citizen involvement, it may be the case that both the public and its elected officials begin to change their view of their relationship -- from one party overseeing the other or serving the self-interested needs of the other, to a collective group of stakeholders or shareholders with the common interest of increasing the net worth of the community as well as the value of the government.

The authors next describe an "evolutionary continuum" of public administrator and citizen interaction as developed by scholar Eran Vigoda (p. 181). On one end of Vigoda's continuum, the public is composed of subjects whom elected officials hold coercive power over. The public on this end of Vigoda's continuum are forced to follow the directives of the government. The other end of the continuum has citizens as owners of the government. On this side, the public owns its elected officials and has coercive power over them. Their elected officials must do as they direct.

Between these two ends, there are different degrees of reciprocity, responsiveness, and collaboration. Vigoda holds that modern governance by its nature involves a struggle between more effective responsiveness to citizens (seen as clients) and successful collaboration with them as partners. Vigoda additionally holds that this struggle is rooted in "tangible differences between the nature of responsiveness and the essence of collaboration" (p. 181).

The authors describe how Vigoda goes on to explore in great detail the differences between responsiveness and collaboration, qualifying responsiveness as passive and unidirectional, and defining it as a reaction to individual needs and desires. Collaboration, on the other hand, Vigoda says, is a "more bidirectional act of participation, involvement, and unification of forces between people" (p. 181). It "highlights a moral value of genuine cooperation and teamwork between citizens and government and public administration systems where each party is neither a pure servant nor the master, but a social player in the theatre of state" (p. 181).

When government becomes more responsive, Vigoda claims that it is less willing to collaborate and partner with citizens. However, Vigoda says, responsiveness and collaboration are not mutually exclusive, which he believes is how the public administration literature has largely approached it. The result of this treatment has been the inherent tension between better responsiveness to citizens as clients and successful collaboration with citizens as partners.

The authors then present to us a table in which the various models of citizen participation are summarized. The table specifically highlights the different roles citizens and public managers assume, the way in which elected representatives approach interaction with the public, and the dynamic of each method of approach. They explain that the roles the table assigns to citizens and public managers aren't mutually exclusive. However, "their interaction with a specific agency or administrator at any given point in time will be dominated by one of the roles they play and thus the dynamic of the interaction... is a reflection of the specific role they play in that situation" (p. 181).

The authors cite as an example of a citizen in multiple roles one that must pay a fine associated with, for example, a traffic ticket. This role makes the citizen a subject of the government. And when they purchase stamps, for example, the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Arnstein, S. (1969). "A ladder of citizen participation." Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35, (2), 216.

Box, R.C. (1998). Citizen Governance: Leading American Communities into the 21st Century.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


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