Within the UK, as in many other parts of the world, an increased focus is being placed on the involvement of community leaders, voluntary groups, neighbourhood residents and civic associations in the policy decisions which affect their lives and in the design and implementation of services, especially at the local level. Often referred to in the UK as 'the new localism', these initiatives are seen by their proponents as enhancing civic life, deepening democratic participation, and contributing to more effective neighbourhood renewal and sustainable communities. Critics of these approaches, on the other hand, argue that the new participatory approaches weaken the coordinating role of local government and erode the roles and responsibilities of locally elected councillors and representatives.
This paper outlines (i) underlying issues related to leadership, representation, and participation as they have been experienced in other parts of the world and (ii) suggests lessons from international experience which may relate to the debate in the UK context. Following a review of the broad trends towards new and innovative forms of citizen participation in governance, the paper outlines key challenges which these trends pose, especially in the area of community leadership and democratic representation.
London, UK: Neighbourhood Renewal Unit/Office of Deputy Prime Minister, 41 pp.