Thursday, May 20, 2010
According to public administrators, some of the highest barriers to citizen participation are citizens themselves.

 Yesterday, I tweeted a new Onion article, “Report: Majority Of Government Doesn't Trust Citizens Either.”  As with their 2000 piece, “Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'” The Onion hit on the truth through their satire.

A report titled “Citizen Involvement Efforts and Bureaucratic Responsiveness: Participatory Values, Stakeholder Pressures and Administrative Practicality" by Kaifeng Yang and Kathe Callahan explores the barriers to greater citizen participation that government employees face.  Citizens themselves are the highest barriers, according to  321 municipal and ocunty managers, 43 county administrators, and 4 elected officials.  Specifically, respondents felt that citizens "don't have time," "promote their own agenda," and "lack expertise" to to participate meaningfully in the governing process.

You should read the entire report, which asks these four questions:

  • What social/political groups in the community promote citizen involvement?
  • Which groups are likely to succeed?
  • What barriers obstruct citizen involvement efforts?
  • Do administrative attitudes make a difference in undertaking citizen involvement?

The public managers and administrators want to remind us, however, that sometimes the biggest obstacle to citizen participation is the citizenry itself.


(Click image to see full-size version)

The very pepole who are charged to engage the public believe that their constituents are likely to be as busy as their over-scheduled children, as given to self-interest as the politicians they elect, and as inexpert on the complex issues under consideration as the red-faced pundits they turn to for infotainment.

Your thoughts?