About participation requests and their role in community empowerment and improving public services.

Participation requests are a new legislative tool that enable a community group or body to request to be part of decision-making processes that seek to make improvements to public services.

Part of the Community Empowerment Act (2015), participation requests give a group of people in a community, or a community body, the right to start a discussion with organisations such as local councils and health boards about how a public service could improved.

Once the participation request is accepted – there must be a good reason to refuse it – then there is a formal process of discussion. This should lead to an improvement; the community’s idea may not necessarily be implemented but they should be able to see to see how the decision was made.

There’s more in-depth information about participation requests including answers to frequently-asked questions on the Scottish Community Development Centre website

A positive finding has been that some community organisations who have had their participation request agreed to have told us they have since made some progress. This has not necessarily been a direct result of the request but groups have reported it has given their work more impetus and a higher profile. In this sense, participation requests may be seen as one ‘piece of the puzzle’ for improving an outcome.

Finding in the SCDC Participation Requests Briefing (August 2018)

One piece of the puzzle is a summary of learning from SCDC’s work around participation requests. Get the PDF of the report on the SCDC website.

See the first (interim) output of an 18-month evaluation of Participation Requests and Asset Transfer Requests implementation, conducted by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University. It summarises activity across Scotland using the data from the first set of annual reports that all Public Service Authorities and Relevant Authorities referred to in the Act were required to publish by 30 June 2018 and covering the period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

Wordcloud related to participation requests. The largest words are participation, community, regulations, response, reasons, request, please, public, service, process, informationWe explored how key stakeholders and potential users of the Participation Request mechanism articulate and frame the associated challenges and opportunities in research published in December 2018.

The purpose of the research was to gain a better understanding of how the different actors in public service authorities and community organisations perceive and use (or not) the participation requests process and highlight key reflections regarding the early experiences around participation requests. This report informs policy and professional practice in implementation and evaluation of this policy tool.

There is an intersection between community engagement and inequality. Inequalities in health, wealth, income, education and so on, can be arguably seen as stemming from inequalities in power and influence. Therefore, community engagement processes can simply reproduce existing inequalities, unless they are designed and facilitated to distribute influence by ensuring diversity and inclusion.

Our literature review examined evidence from Scotland and the UK, on what is being done to overcome inequality in community engagement.

Related resources

See all of what Works Scotland publications and resources, blogs and activities related to participatory decision-making