The Arnstein Ladder of citizen participation defines different levels of participation. This model shows how much power participants have over the outcomes of their contributions at each rung of the ladder. The model illustrates that as participation moves from “partnership” to “consultation” and then “manipulation”, the individuals involved in the process have less and less control over the product of their contributions. These contributors are often not the ones who benefit from the end product or outcome. According to this model, the gold standard for participation is at the top three rungs of the ladder where those involved can have an impact and control the outcomes that they also benefit from. This type of involvement overcomes any barriers to building trust that may exist as it redistributes the power among all those involved.
This model can be used as an effective tool to reflect on our current relationships with our end users and participants/collaborators. It can help to develop strategies to move closer to the top of the ladder where participants/collaborators are included in our teams and can equally contribute ideas.