1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Tony Chenhansa <tonyc@cpeo.org>
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 1999 16:16:58 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Social Equity and City Planning
This essay was originally sent by Emery Graham of Wilmington, DE. 

The author uses a ladder as analogy to describe the 8 levels of citizen
participation. The essay examines the meaning of citizen participation
and analyzes the Model Cities Program implemented in the late 60's.

"Participation without redistribution of power is a frustrating and
empty process
for the powerless and it enables those with power to claim that although
only a few really benefit, all sides were considered."

Level 1 = Manipulation
Level 2 = Therapy
Level 3 = Informing
Level 4 = Consultation
Level 5 = Placation (or concessions)
Level 6 = Partnerships
Level 7 = Delegationed Power
Level 8 = Citizen Control

Can anyone offer additional details about the "Model Cities" program?

Tony Chenhansa


From: Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>

Jeremy Parnes - week 9 - Social Equity and City Planning 

A Ladder of Citizen Participation - Sherry Arnstein
- from  Classic Readings in Urban Planning

While everyone claims to be in favor of citizen participation,
a fundamental principle of the American government, many shy away
from this claim when this principle is advocated by minorities
or the have-nots of our country. This essay examines what citizen
participation is and what its relationship is to the social imperatives
of the late 1960's (when this was originally written).
Arnstein defines citizen participation as " the redistribution
of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded
from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately
included in the future (p.351). It is the means by which
significant social reform that enables the have-nots to share
in the benefits of an affluent society is induced. Participation
without redistribution of power is a frustrating and empty process
for the powerless and it enables those with power to claim that
although only a few really benefit, all sides were considered.
Arnstein believes that this is what happened with the Model Cities
and the Community Actions programs.
Arnstein defines eight levels of participation and compares the
analysis to a ladder, with each rung representing the extent of
the citizens' power in determining the end product. The analysis
can also be applied to the structure of the church, of universities,
of businesses and even of police departments.
The first two rungs of the ladder are considered to be nonparticipatory
levels. " The real objective,"  states Arnstein, " is
not to enable people to participate in planning or conducting
programs, but to enable powerholders to 'educate' or 'cure' the
participants (p.360). Manipulation, the lowest level of
participation, is an illusory form of participation in which people
are given advisory positions just so the powerholders can engineer
their support. Such was the case with urban renewal programs when
the elite were invited by city housing officials to sit on Citizen
Advisory Committees (CAC's). The elites had manipulative agendas
that emphasized " information gathering and " public
relations as the primary functions of the CAC's. " Yet
it was the officials who educated, persuaded, and advised the
citizens, not the reverse (p.362). This, according to Arnstein,
is typical of most grassroots participation projects.
Therapy is the second lowest rung on the ladder. Dishonest and
arrogant, " its administrators - mental health experts from
social workers to psychiatrists - assume that powerlessness is
synonymous with mental illness (p.363), explains Arnstein.
What planning citizens are involved in is really a masquerade
for clinical group therapy. " Citizens are engaged in extensive
activity, but the focus of it is on curing their 'pathology' rather
than changing the racism and victimization that create their
Rungs three to five are based on degrees of tokenism, in which
the have-nots have voices, but their voices are not heeded by
the powerholders. The third level of participation is the Informing
level, which is a one-way communication from the government through
the media to the citizens informing them of their rights,
and options. While this can be the most important step toward
legitimate citizen participation, there is often no citizen feedback
or negotiation. In the planning process, people are often given
information at a time when it is too late for them to have any
real opportunity to influence the program.
Consultation is the fourth stage. Although citizens are often
consulted through surveys, neighborhood meetings and public hearings,
consulting must be combined with other modes of participation
to ensure that their ideas and concerns will be taken into account.
Writes Arnstein, " What citizens achieve&#133;is that they
have 'participated in participation.' And what power holders achieve
is the evidence that hey have gone through the required motions
of involving 'those people' (p.365). Without having any
say on the specific plans of a Model Cities program, people in
New Haven " participated by simply voting on the
" controversial" issue of being in favor or not of health clinics.
It is at the fifth rung, Placation, " that citizens begin
to have some degree of influence, though tokenism is still apparent
(p.366). " Worthy citizens are appointed to boards
on Community Action Agencies or on public bodies for education,
police commissions or housing authorities. As is the case with
many of the Model Cities programs, since citizens are appointed
by powerholders, there are only accountable to those who appointed
them. Therefore, it is only the powerholders who judge their ideas,
their advice and their overall usefulness. In some cases, citizen
boards and task forces have rights and responsibilities that are
ambiguous or even not defined at all. Referring to HUD's Community
Demonstration Agency (CDA's) and their policymaking boards, Arnstein
writes that " Citizens, drawing on past negative experiences
with local powerholders, were extremely suspicious of this new
panacea program. They were legitimately distrustful of city hall's
motives (p.365)." 
The three highest rungs of the ladder relate to degrees of real
citizen power, or degrees of decision making clout. Partnership
is the sixth level. Power is actually redistributed through negotiation
between powerholders and citizens. Through structures such as
joint policy boards and planning committees, they agree to share
planning and decision making responsibilities. Partnerships are
most effective when " there is an organized power-base in
the community to which the citizen leaders are accountable (p.369)" 
and when the citizen group has a strong financial backing. Arnstein
explains that only 15 of the first 75 cities in the model Cities
program have reached this level of participation, and in all but
one of the 15 cases, power is shared because it was seized by
the citizens, not because it was given by the city. Members of
Philadelphia's Area Wide Council (AWC), for example, constitute
five of the 11 seats on the Philadelphia CDA. The AWC has a $20,000
monthly budget and is able to initiate plans of its own and review
plans made by other city agencies.
Delegated power is the seventh stage. Negotiations between citizens
and public officials " result in citizens achieving dominant
decision making authority over a particular plan or program citizens
hold the significant cards to assure accountability of the program
to them (p.370). In New Haven, for example, a neighborhood
corporation was created to prepare the entire Model Cities program.
The corporation gets $110,000 out of HUD's $117,000 planning grant
to the city to hire its own planning staff and consultants. The
corporation also has 11 representatives on the 21 member CDA board.
The eighth and highest level of citizen participation, citizen
control, occurs when " have-nots obtain the majority of decision
making seats, or full managerial power (p.361). According
to Arnstein, while no one in this country has absolute control,
" people are demanding that degree of power which guarantees
that participants can govern a program or institution, be
in full charge of policy and managerial aspects and be able to
negotiate the conditions under which 'outsiders' may change them
(p.271). Most frequently advocated is a neighborhood corporation
with no intermediaries between it and the source of its funds.
Finally, Arnstein admits that " In actuality, neither the
have-nots nor the powerholders are homogeneous blocks (p.361)." 
Additionally, her analysis does not account for the significant
roadblocks to achieving genuine levels of participation - racism,
paternalism and resistance to the redistribution of power on the
side of the powerholders and feelings of distrust, alienation
and the inadequacies of most poor communities' socioeconomic
and knowledge base on the side of the have-nots.
I find this to be a very interesting paper. I think Arnstein phrases
it very well when she describes in her opining that most Americans
say they support citizen participation only as long as the
of power is not mentioned. Although her article was written in
1969, I think it's pretty safe to say that at very least there
are many out there who feel the same way now. I also agree with
her that the level of citizen participation can be measured along
a continuum. In a federal system such as ours, though, it may
be more difficult to measure citizen participation as Arnstein
does. Everyday citizens working in the Model Cities program, for
example, were involved on the local level. People working in CDC's
today are also involved on the local level. They may be working
within federal regulations or for federal funding, but they are
not necessarily participating on the federal level. CDC's in fact,
are needed to fill the voids left by all levels of governments.
Those working in or with CDC's are engaging - are participating
- in activities that are meant to improve both current and future
conditions, but again, they are not necessarily participating
in governmental activities, let alone federal activities. I guess
the question that I am not sure how to answer is what does citizen
participation in a democratic country really mean?
Arnstein defines citizen participation as " the redistribution
of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded
from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately
included in the future (p.351). Her Participatory stage
(the 7th), though, deals with citizens attaining dominant decision
making authority over a particular plan or program. Given her
main comparison to the Model Cities program, I can see why this
stage is considered such a high level of citizen participation.
On the grand scheme of things, however, giving citizens dominant
decision making authority over a specific plan or program, without
giving citizens similar powers on other programs, seems to me
to be just another way to placate demands for participation. What
better way to quiet an angry crowd by giving them what they want
but only to a very limited extent? The people in New Haven's Model
Cities neighborhood corporation were given a great deal of authority.
But I wonder, without knowing anything about this corporation
other than what Arnstein explains, just how much of a redistribution
of power there really was.
The other issue I question involves the Manipulation stage and
Arnstein's notion that, typical of most grassroots participation
projects, the elites had manipulative agendas that emphasized
" information gathering and " public relations" 
as the primary functions of the grassroots organization. " Yet
it was the officials who educated, persuaded, and advised the
citizens, not the reverse (p.362). Yes, a mutual exchange
of ideas is very important, but if have-nots have been excluded
from the political and economic processes, then naturally, any
type of grassroots organizing must involve some sort of information
exchanges. The organizers must organize - they must inform and
persuade the have-nots that there is a reason to fight for a
of power. How genuine the organizers' concern is for the have-nots
is, however, another story.
<A HREF="http://www.geog.mcgill.ca/social.html">Social issues of
environmental equity</A>
- from the geography department of McGill University.  This site
deals with environmental resources and has some links to some
<A HREF="http://www.lib.uconn.edu/ArcticCircle/SEEJ">Arctic Circle -
Equity and Environmental Justice</A>
- This site deals with the effects of colonialism and social inequity
in the Arctic on the indigenous people of the north.
A paper on <A
and Social Justice For All</A>
- How Advocacy Planning Can Help Environmental Racism.

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