Participation Solutions


Shared problems require shared decision-making. When communities face big common challenges, like climate change and homelessness, governments need to share decision-making with the people most affected.

Innovative leaders in civil society and government are using participatory democracy to open up governance to the people. Around the world, several proven models of participatory and deliberative democracy are helping governments and communities to address complex issues together.

Research shows that these approaches can generate more informed decisions, increase trust in government, expand civic space, build the capacity of civil society, address inequities, and improve community well-being. But participatory processes only lead to these outcomes when designed well. There are many common participation challenges, but also many solutions to these challenges.

Below are some of the most widely used models of participatory and deliberative democracy. Explore the options to learn about participation solutions and how they could help address your needs. Then use the Playbook to decide on a process and design your plan!

Participatory Budgeting

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which residents directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Each year, residents brainstorm ideas, turn them into proposals, and vote to decide which proposals to fund. Started in Brazil in 1989, participatory budgeting has been used for over 7,000 public budgets globally, for cities, states, nations, schools, universities, and other institutions.

Read more to decide if participatory budgeting is a good solution for you.

Participatory Policymaking

Through participatory policymaking, residents propose, debate, and vote on new policies and policy changes, through online platforms and meetings. Participatory policymaking has been used in places such as Taiwan and Spain to introduce and adopt new government policies for issues such as transportation, environment, technology, and public health.

Read more to decide if participatory policymaking is a good solution for you.

Citizens’ Assembly

In citizens’ assemblies, juries and panels, the government, a civil society organization or another institution convenes a randomly selected and representative sample of the community to learn about a policy issue and identify policy solutions. The jury or assembly meets for weeks or months, learns from experts, and then produces a decision, statement or recommendation. These recommendations are often then put to a legislative vote or public vote via referendum, and they have been used to address policies such as abortion, climate change and housing.

Read more to decide if a citizens’ assembly or jury is a good solution for you.

Legislative Theater

In legislative theater, communities, advocates and policymakers work together in a creative process to identify, develop, and build support for new legislation Through interactive theater shows, community members act out solutions to situations of oppression, then work with officials to transform these solutions into new laws or changes to existing laws. Originating in Brazil in 1992, legislative theater has been used around the world to develop creative solutions for issues such as homelessness, the justice system, and workers’ rights.

Read more to decide if legislative theater is a good solution for you.

Design your Process

Get support to start planning a participatory process that works best for your needs.