Participation is central to the strategies of many institution concerned with development, modernization and the reform of policy-making. In the EU framework and rethoric participation is viewed as capable to improving the governmental legitimacy, innovating the forms of regulations and enhancing the quality of public services (Com 2001, Oecd 2001). However the development of the potential of such an impulse seems hard to achieve and it clashes with different levels of difficulties. Increasing of the operational procedures, unsettled relationship between representative democracy and deliberative forms of public participation and consumerism, exclusion and "conditioning" of the most disadvantaged, are only some of the possible drifts highlighted by a body of empirical works. As Newman and Clarke observed (2009 : 134) “there is no simple explanation of why public participation has become so significant in governmental discourse and practices” and, on the other side, “participation is not a singular thing: not one process, practice, technology or institutional arrangement. Rather it is politically ambiguous, both in its conception and in its practices.” Behind the facade of the language of participation it is possible to identify a range of ways in which governament and state institution have tried to promote public participation in specific contexts and within heterogeneous political projects (ibid. : 136). Preconditions and outcomes cannot be taken for granted. In this scenario, action research could have a particular relevance in enrich our understanding of what public participation is, how it is enabled or constrained, how debate and dialogue can take place and what consequences such deliberation can have for public policies. Based in a rather different forms and presuppositions in respect to the “traditional” or “standard” scientific approach to social research, it can be particularly effective in revealing and managing some dilemmas and paradoxes of the institutional policies aiming at promoting citizen participation. At the same time, it is at risk to create new dilemmas and paradoxes, particularly with regard to relationships of power and knowledge in the interaction between science and society, and between research structures and social contexts. The paper discusses some outcomes of an action research project aimed at understanding what is at stake in a recent reform of the Tuscany Region Welfare System (Regional Law Act 60 of 2008), oriented to promoting a high level of social participation of institutional, professional and social actors. Stemming from some mixed results, the paper firstly examines some paradoxical effects and limitations produced by the institutional action. Secondly, it discusses how action research can be effective in revealing and facing some paradoxical elements of these kinds of institutional policies. Thirdly, it argues on some limitations and potentiality through which action research can sustain local actors in changing situations related to concrete local problems: analysing essential condition and potentials of the so called “experiment in the field” (Lewin 19511), debating the not as obvious implications for the role of research in relation to the political and social actors in the decision-making processes.

Things have changed between us? Dealing with paradoxes between norms and processes An action research project promoted by the Tuscany Region

BONETTI, MARTA;VILLA, MATTEO
2013

Abstract

Participation is central to the strategies of many institution concerned with development, modernization and the reform of policy-making. In the EU framework and rethoric participation is viewed as capable to improving the governmental legitimacy, innovating the forms of regulations and enhancing the quality of public services (Com 2001, Oecd 2001). However the development of the potential of such an impulse seems hard to achieve and it clashes with different levels of difficulties. Increasing of the operational procedures, unsettled relationship between representative democracy and deliberative forms of public participation and consumerism, exclusion and "conditioning" of the most disadvantaged, are only some of the possible drifts highlighted by a body of empirical works. As Newman and Clarke observed (2009 : 134) “there is no simple explanation of why public participation has become so significant in governmental discourse and practices” and, on the other side, “participation is not a singular thing: not one process, practice, technology or institutional arrangement. Rather it is politically ambiguous, both in its conception and in its practices.” Behind the facade of the language of participation it is possible to identify a range of ways in which governament and state institution have tried to promote public participation in specific contexts and within heterogeneous political projects (ibid. : 136). Preconditions and outcomes cannot be taken for granted. In this scenario, action research could have a particular relevance in enrich our understanding of what public participation is, how it is enabled or constrained, how debate and dialogue can take place and what consequences such deliberation can have for public policies. Based in a rather different forms and presuppositions in respect to the “traditional” or “standard” scientific approach to social research, it can be particularly effective in revealing and managing some dilemmas and paradoxes of the institutional policies aiming at promoting citizen participation. At the same time, it is at risk to create new dilemmas and paradoxes, particularly with regard to relationships of power and knowledge in the interaction between science and society, and between research structures and social contexts. The paper discusses some outcomes of an action research project aimed at understanding what is at stake in a recent reform of the Tuscany Region Welfare System (Regional Law Act 60 of 2008), oriented to promoting a high level of social participation of institutional, professional and social actors. Stemming from some mixed results, the paper firstly examines some paradoxical effects and limitations produced by the institutional action. Secondly, it discusses how action research can be effective in revealing and facing some paradoxical elements of these kinds of institutional policies. Thirdly, it argues on some limitations and potentiality through which action research can sustain local actors in changing situations related to concrete local problems: analysing essential condition and potentials of the so called “experiment in the field” (Lewin 19511), debating the not as obvious implications for the role of research in relation to the political and social actors in the decision-making processes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/245145
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