Participation Now emerges out of several years’ research on publics, participation and engagement with research. It is a new web resource that aims to imagine, animate and support a public who are interested in and/or involved with the fast-changing field of public participation. Participation Now is also an experimental public engagement initiative, which is working to test-out, develop, evaluate and report back on experimental and participative ways of involving people in a field of research and practice.
“It will be hard to address the large number of problems we face the 21st Century without public participation in public life. However, pick up a newspaper or follow a debate on Twitter and you’ll get a sense that many of our established public organisations and forms of democratic participation are in crisis, and that our most familiar public forums and forms of belonging are being questioned. It’s in this context that we are seeing a growing variety of public participation initiatives. We need a way to support active learning, research and ongoing innovation in this area.” [From ‘about’ page of Participation Now website]
The Open University has 40-year history of widening participation and opening up access to research, knowledge and expertise. Participation Now seeks to build on this, by experimenting in new ways. The Participation Now site is being designed and developed in recognition of how the field of public participation is now increasingly crisscrossing multiple domains of practice and also breaching and spanning disciplinary boundaries. At the heart of Participation Now is a searchable collection, or archive, of contemporary public participation initiatives, that will be regularly updated and added to. For users looking to explore and stay informed about what’s new and what’s changed, the site therefore aims to offer an interactive and constantly developing experience .
In time, we’re hoping to add multimedia resources that support reflection, debate and new research about the possibilities and difficulties of initiatives like these. Looking even further ahead, we’d love to build an infrastructure to help people make connections; share experiences, knowledge and research; and develop practice within this fast-changing field.
The approach we are using to develop Participation Now draws on research about publics, participation and engagement, builds on lessons from action research and citizen science and takes inspiration from the initiatives in the Participation Now archive. Participation Now is located on the Open University’s OpenLearn platform and this pilot project is led by Nick Mahony and Hilde Stephansen (the Creating Publics team) who are located in the Open University’s Centre for CItizenship, Identities and Governance). This pilot project is being undertaken as a collaboration between the Creating Publics project, the Open University’s RCUK-funded Catalyst initiative and the OpenLearn team. We welcome your views on this initiative and any feedback or questions you may have about this work.
If you’re on Twitter and would like to keep up with ongoing developments, you can follow @NowParticipate