The ladder of participation: Training exercise

Arnstein identified eight levels of participation (see diagram below), which increase from level 1 (manipulation) through 8 (citizen control). Partnership is a type of citizen power and is at level 7.

Put the students into groups of four or five people and show them the Arnstein ladder of participation. Ask them to consider where they think student involvement within their institution would be placed on the ladder. They should try to be as honest and realistic as possible.

Get them to identify clear, specific examples that support this placement.

Now ask the group to think about what would need to happen for the relationship to move further up the scale by one rung. By asking them to move by one rung only they can have achievable goals, too much change may not be achievable or sustainable, or take a very long time.

Take these points into consideration:
  • What kind of support is needed?
  • What kind of resources must be provided?
  • Who needs to be involved?