"Who Participates?" This is the name of the game that will be made available to members of the Portuguese Network of Participatory Municipalities so that they can carry out a self-diagnosis exercise on the inclusive nature of the participation practices they develop.
This game design was based on collaborative action research carried out within the Portuguese Network of Participatory Municipalities (RAP – in the Portuguese acronym) with the aim of understanding the extent to which civic participation processes tend or not to ensure the inclusion of traditionally under-represented social groups.
This work was developed using two main lines of study: i) a self-assessment of each municipality, carried out through a questionnaire survey on the practices and strategies adopted; ii) an external evaluation on the inclusive nature of the websites dedicated to participation processes.
The results were presented and discussed in various forums and later published in a book .
From this study it became even more apparent that without meaningful and intentional mechanisms, the practices of citizen participation in public policymaking tend to mirror and reproduce the existing under-representations in each community, thus diminishing their integrating and inclusive potential.
Nelson Dias, from Oficina, the entity that assumes the Technical Secretariat of RAP, qualifies as under-represented "the actors that belong to social groups or territories traditionally less present in the practices of participation and in the processes of political decision-making". Among these, the following profiles were considered in the scope of this work: children, adolescents, youth, women, elderly, people with mobility difficulties, low vision/blindness, deaf/mute, mental health problems, low literacy, coming from isolated rural areas, foreigners, homeless, those with high purchasing power and ethnic minorities.
To help organise the findings, the profiles exposed have been grouped based on the following factors of under-representation: physical and mental, cultural, generational, socio-economic, territorial and gender.
Inspired by these elements, and because RAP is a platform aimed at supporting the qualification of its members and the practices they promote, it was decided to go ahead with the creation of a game, in board format, which serves as a self-diagnostic exercise for the teams directly responsible for conducting civic participation processes.
The "players" are invited to analyse 42 profiles belonging to traditionally under-represented social groups and verify whether the methodologies they adopt are the most suitable for guaranteeing the participation of those people. "Who participates?" does not stop at analysing each of the situations identified but calls for the adoption of measures to facilitate the inclusion of individuals who are unable to access the participatory process.
In the words of José Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor of Valongo and President of RAP, "this is an innovative initiative, without parallel in other countries, which demonstrates the commitment of the Network to contribute to the continuous improvement of the processes of civic participation in Portugal. This contribution, says the mayor, is particularly relevant in the context in which we find ourselves, coming out of the pandemic situation and recovering the practices of citizen involvement in the management of public affairs".
The game will be publicly presented during the Forum "Recovering Civic Participation in Portugal", which will take place in Valongo on 17th and 18th of March. The programme and registration are available at the following address.