Empowered Participation

Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy

Archon Fung
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Empowered Participation
    Book Description:

    Every month in every neighborhood in Chicago, residents, teachers, school principals, and police officers gather to deliberate about how to improve their schools and make their streets safer. Residents of poor neighborhoods participate as much or more as those from wealthy ones. All voices are heard. Since the meetings began more than a dozen years ago, they have led not only to safer streets but also to surprising improvements in the city's schools. Chicago's police department and school system have become democratic urban institutions unlike any others in America.

    Empowered Participationis the compelling chronicle of this unprecedented transformation. It is the first comprehensive empirical analysis of the ways in which participatory democracy can be used to effect social change. Using city-wide data and six neighborhood case studies, the book explores how determined Chicago residents, police officers, teachers, and community groups worked to banish crime and transform a failing city school system into a model for educational reform. The author's conclusion: Properly designed and implemented institutions of participatory democratic governance can spark citizen involvement that in turn generates innovative problem-solving and public action. Their participation makes organizations more fair and effective.

    Though the book focuses on Chicago's municipal agencies, its lessons are applicable to many American cities. Its findings will prove useful not only in the fields of education and law enforcement, but also to sectors as diverse as environmental regulation, social service provision, and workforce development.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3563-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. 1 Democracy as a Reform Strategy
    (pp. 1-30)

    In 1996, the parents, staff, and principal of Southtown Elementary School¹ executed a coup to make the neighborhood school their own. They won permission from the Chicago Board of Education to change the name of their South Side school to Harambee Academy, after an ancient North African kingdom renown for its scholarly achievements. To the community of the newly dubbed Harambee Academy, the name was the appropriate face of a broad initiative to reorganize the school around a coherent, common, and Afrocentric vision. Of Harambee’s some seven hundred students, after all, 99 percent were African-American and 92 percent were from...

  7. 2 Down to the Neighborhoods
    (pp. 31-68)

    In the short span of a decade, the organization of two crucial Chicago administrative agencies—the police department and public schools—underwent fundamental transformations. They moved from insular, hierarchical bureaucracies in the Weberian cast to admit new and empowered forms of citizen participation, public deliberation, and street-level discretion. Charting the course of that transition shows how the top-down administrative structures set in place by Progressive reform were unable to cope with the increasing challenges and demands placed on city government. These crises of organizational performance opened windows of opportunity for reformers. Many other public agencies in America experienced similar performance...

  8. 3 Building Capacity and Accountability
    (pp. 69-98)

    The previous chapter emphasized the decentralizing and participatory moment of the Chicago community-policing and school reforms. From the outset, however, even the harshest critics of bureaucratic malaise recognized the dangers inherent in decentralization, the difficulties of generating constructive citizen participation, and the need for external supports and checks to facilitate the problem-solving in the neighborhoods. Early experiences with the CPS and CPD reforms not only confirmed these worries, but also revealed further problems and pitfalls that led to the partial reinvention of central authority. Under the prior, hierarchical model of administration, the CPS and CPD central offices attempted to control...

  9. 4 Challenges to Participation
    (pp. 99-131)

    The preceding chapters offered accountable autonomy as a general institutional design that advances methods of direct and deliberative citizen participation to solve stubborn public problems. The CPD and CPS reconfigured many aspects of their formal organization along the lines of accountable autonomy in the late 1980s and 1990s. Though there are good reasons to suppose that these reforms will advance the aims of their architects—greater participation, deliberation, more equitable and effective policy outcomes—there is also a strong case that these innovative forms of governance and administration will disappoint both democrats and technocrats alike. These structures may demand too...

  10. 5 Deliberation and Poverty
    (pp. 132-172)

    Though far from conclusive, the city-wide data presented in the preceding chapter provide some empirical ground for optimism about the potential of the Chicago community-policing and school-governance reforms. Several years of experience with this novel form of urban governance show that it meets many of the challenges raised by five first-blush objections to participatory democracy—strong versions of rational-choice theory and egalitarianism, social-capital theory, a theory of difference, and an elite-technocratic perspective. These data, however, addressed only the roughest inputs (e.g., neighborhood wealth and racial characteristics) and outputs (e.g., participation rates and other characteristics of engagement, participants’ satisfaction with processes...

  11. 6 Deliberation in Social Conflict
    (pp. 173-219)

    This chapter explores processes of participatory and deliberative problem-solving in politically conflicted contexts. The neighborhoods examined below were riven by four varieties of division: racial conflict, economic inequality, tensions between professional autonomy and citizen control, and substantive policy disagreements. In such contexts, institutions designed to produce fair and effective deliberations may instead result in domination, paralysis, or chaos. Each case exhibits both the promise and dangers of participatory deliberation. In each, there were moments when deliberation was inclusive, fair, and effective, and periods in which discussion fell far short of these ideals. Examining the differences between these moments of successful...

  12. 7 The Chicago Experience and Beyond
    (pp. 220-242)

    This volume opened with a puzzle: how can participatory democracy offer a feasible ideal for urban governance when the complexities facing modern administration create daunting barriers that prevent citizens from understanding, much less affecting, many of the public decisions that govern their lives? The experiences of two large municipal agencies in America’s third-largest city suggest that deep citizen participation in structures of governance that empower their deliberations is indeed workable. Well-conceived forms of participatory- and deliberative-democratic governance can address some of the technical and democratic deficits of hierarchical bureaucracies that are insulated from public scrutiny and control. As an alternative...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 243-252)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 253-270)
  15. Index
    (pp. 271-278)