Advantages and Disadvantages of Increased Citizen Participation

Advantages and Disadvantages of Increased Citizen Participation


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Advantages and Disadvantages of Increased Citizen Participation


Citizen participation is the involvement of citizens in decision-making. In essence, participation pertains to power or observation, while citizens may either be organized groups or specific individuals. The term citizen participation emerged and denoted the remedial efforts of inactive citizens in government activity. Citizen involvement entails autonomous initiatives within larger society such as social action, social planning, or community development. Although citizen participation has significant effects on democracy, it also has its downside. This text discusses the advantages and disadvantages associated with increased citizen participation.

Advantages of Increased Citizen Participation

The first benefit of increased citizen participation is improved governance. Citizen participation breeds democratic legitimacy for various institutions due to its close association with citizens. It leads to more opportunities and a better reputation for public bodies. It also breeds increased accountability for public institutions as a result of better dialogue and effective information dissemination. Secondly, increased citizen participation is an opportunity for greater learning and capacity development. This is because it is an opportunity to raise awareness about and increase the citizens’ understanding of public institutions and how they function. This ensures that citizens have better access to the required services and understand the limitations and boundaries of various public bodies. This builds the citizens’ confidence and optimism, who in turn attend learning or civic activities. This way, members of the public are better placed to support community and voluntary sectors. Another advantage of increased citizen participation is increased social cohesion. Participation brings hostile and diverse communities together, which is beneficial as it reaches groups that are disadvantaged and hard to reach. These groups contribute the discussions and build relationships with different social groups and communities. These disadvantaged people become strengthened and enable them to create a diverse network. This way, various interest groups work together and build positive working relationships.

Disadvantages of Increased Citizen Participation

One of the downsides of increased citizen participation is that it tends to be cumbersome and can make the process of public policy unnecessarily lengthy. Important to note officials must gain the support of the community members early in the public participation process. Including community support too late in the process can cause strong opposition on a particular subject matter and once this takes place, there is no trust in the process which causes the damage of existing relationships and alienation by the public. Another disadvantage of increased citizen participation is that it leaves a possibility of one single faction or individual dominating the entire group. Making plans for the group is only as good as the entire group. Any recommendation must be a group decision and not the voice of one single individual or the loudest person in the group. Other disadvantages of increased citizen participation have to do with the monetary costs associated with the process. Public participation can be costly as it requires lots of resources to make it a success. This includes paid and unpaid staff time, participants’ fees, staff expenditures, external consultants, venue hire, administration and staff training, and other event expenditures such as leaflets, monitoring, evaluation fees, equipment, and refreshment fees.


In closing, citizen participation has to do with the increased involvement of citizens in decision-making, social action, and community development activities. Increased citizen participation has benefits such as greater social cohesion, better governance, and better learning and capacity building. Disadvantages have to do with increased monetary costs, domination by one group and lengthy and cumbersome public policy process.


Ianniello, Mario, Silvia Iacuzzi, Paolo Fedele, and Luca Brusati. “Obstacles and solutions on the ladder of citizen participation: a systematic review.” Public management review 21, no. 1 (2019): 21-46.