Participation and Power: Reflections on the Role of Government in Land Use Planning and Rural Development

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To examine the role of power in interactive policymaking settings. Design/Methodology/Approach: A literature study is combined with four case studies relating to citizen participation in natural resource management and rural development in the Netherlands. Findings: Many of the identified problems and dilemmas of interactive policymaking and citizens’ participation can be traced back to a lack of clarity about the role of government and power in the context of interactive policymaking. Reflection on the literature reveals that the notion of power is not well integrated in dominant conceptualizations and normative theories about participation. Empirical observations suggest that this results in a vacuum whereby participants, on the one hand, do not feel that they are really participating and, on the other, experience a lack of direction that runs counter to their perceptions about the role and responsibility of government. Steering and participatory models of organizing communication in policy processes need to be complemented with a network model that allows governments to better situate themselves amidst the dynamics of power and processes of self-organization. Practical Implications: A balance needs to be created between, on the one hand, accountability and responsibility, and, on the other, influence and discretion in order to think about and deal with power in interactive policymaking in a new way. Originality/Value: The value of the paper lies in its conceptual analysis (based on both theory and practice) of different ways power plays a role in interactive policymaking. A new network model for conceptualizing government communication is introduced
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-145
JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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