Pathways through Participation. What creates and sustains active citizenship?

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 27 March 2017



From 01/04/2009 to 01/11/2011

What were the project’s research questions?

  • How and why does participation begin and continue?
  • Can trends and patterns of participation (in terms of activity and intensity) be identified over time?
  • What connections, if any, are there between different forms of participation and what triggers movement between them?
  • How can public service providers, policy-makers and voluntary and community organisations enable and encourage different individuals and communities to participate?

What led to the research?

The project emerged from a common desire across our three organisations to create a fuller picture of how people participate over their lifetimes. It builds on work completed at NCVO on active citizenship, adds to IVR’s research into volunteering by exploring it in relation to other forms of participation, and extends Involve’s research and practice in empowering citizens to take and influence the decisions that affect their lives.

How does the research add to the existing evidence base?

Previous research has tended to look at participation within a particular type of activity (such as volunteering) or issue (such as housing), usually from an institutional or organisational perspective and at just a snapshot in time. This project builds on the existing evidence base by taking a much broader definition of participation, focusing on people’s experience of participation over the course of their lives, and looking at the connections between different participation activities. By adopting this approach, the project was able to explore the complexities and dynamics of how participation works in practice.

What approach did the project take?

Our approach placed the individual at the heart of the research: in total, we conducted 101 in-depth interviews with people, who reflected on their life story of participation. However, we recognised that participation needs to be looked at in its wider context because people do not operate in a vacuum; their participation is situated in time, place and space. We therefore chose three different areas from around England in which to carry out the research to provide a range of contexts for participation, and enable us to interview a broad range of people. The three fieldwork areas were Leeds (inner city), the London Borough of Enfield (suburban) and Suffolk (rural).

  • Final report of the project. Based on 101 interviews, it explores people’s experiences of participation, how and why participation begins continues and stops, and the links and patterns in people’s participation.
  • Summary report. It summarises the findings from the project and our recommendations for future policy and practice.

  • Informing and influencing policy. This briefing paper summarises the findings and implications for national policy agendas.

  • Local engagement in democracy. This briefing paper summarises the findings and implications for local engagement in democracy.

  • Volunteering as a participation pathway. This briefing paper summarises the findings and implications for volunteer management.

  • Research, engagement and impact. This briefing paper reviews the project’s approach to research and stakeholder engagement, highlights how the project set about linking research to policy and practice, and critically assesses some of the research methods and tools that were used.

  • Understanding participation: A literature review. This report is a literature review exploring participation in context (historical and current), in practice (the activities and actors), and in theory (the concepts).

The project was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.
For more information about Pathways through Participation you can contact Véronique Jochum, the project manager

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