Public participation – not only in the municipality!

How does one create a community within organizations and what does it mean to integrate participatory processes inside your own organization?
The democratic Institute was recently nominated by the International Association for Public Participation as the first Israeli organization to lead public participation. This is an opportunity to talk about the theme: what is public participation and what is the connection between public participation and organizations? How do we turn management in an organization into participating zone and why is it important for any organization do to so? And above all – what does it have to do with the term “community”?

In recent years, DI works to advance values of dialogue, participation, community and social responsibility.
One of the outstanding tools to advance our principals is participatory management and public participation. In most cases, people think about the term “public participation” in the context of government, local authority or municipality.

We suggest another use: public participation also in the working place. DI itself works as a democratic organization that leads and encourage democratic culture and participatory communal way of living within the Israeli society.

DI works throughout Israel in local authorities where it integrates local democracy and public participation, in education systems, communities, social geographic periphery, in all sectors of societies and in all age groups.

One of DI's leading values is community. It reflects itself in the way that the organization operates inside and outside. DI is participatory and democratically managed.
קהילה - שיתוף ציבור
“We are an organization that is driven by principals of dialogue, transparency, participation and mutual responsibility” say DI’s joint CEOs, Michal Gilboa Ater and Yotam Tron, that were democratically elected to their position. “We were elected by internal democratic process of which all of DI’s workers were involved in. It was not a populist process of raising a hand or voting behind a curtain but more of procedure that is suitable for our organization. We were chosen by a location committee composed of workers together with our board and senior management, so we were not appointed to our jobs but rather given a mandate to operate by the organization”.

המכון הדמוקרטי - קהילה
מיכל גלבוע - שיתוף ציבור
We consider the workers as a public of their own! E.g. – the organization is an entire Society (not a Company). Since that organization is a community, it is crucial that every member will feel a sense of belonging towards this community”.

In the new world of employment, that of the 21 century, there is a term called Engagement.
This term represents how important it is that employees in the new world will be connected to their place of employment. Employees today don’t want to be “just a small mind” and do what they are told. They want to feel part, participate in a wider community and sense that they are contributing to the organization. If they don’t like that, they just walk away to the next place.. Researches, however, show, that what encourages people to stay in their working place is the feeling that they are part of decision making. Thus, they can be active, have mutual relationships with the organization and conduct a discourse.

“I feel that I have a say” says Sivan, one of DI’s workers. “They listen to what I say, do brain storming and only then make a decision. This is what I consider to be a community”.

In DI the workers are partners in decision making and can be socially active within the organization; each worker may change things. Many times, we hear about barrios and fears of organizations’ managers to conduct a public participation process.  There are many reasons and myths why not to, but they can be easily removed. So why should you get your employees involved in decision making? For further reading: Q&A  regarding public participation in decision making .
קהילה במכון הדמוקרטי - שיתוף ציבור

"One of the easiest principals to implement, one that mostly advance public participation in organizations, is freedom and trust-based management"

The first step is to give up control. In many cases, supervision and control make the employee feel that he is being watched and in exam all the time.  He/ she must show results, be efficient and do what is expected of him/ her. In an organization that promotes public participation one can, and even should, give up the need in control for the growth of the organization.

“In our experience, leadership is providing the workers with a sense of confidence, by releasing old patterns. Such a leadership is participatory, sharing, and enabling the organization to move from supervision to trust. The director must inspire, enable and create a vessel for creativity. This is the way community works” say the CEO’s.

It is important to indicate that a participatory way of living and managing a communal democratic organization demands investment and resources side to side by organizational change.  The director must know the preferences and character of the organization and what is the required first step to be done in order, using certain professional tools, to implement a participatory handling. An external tutoring can do just that.
Learn more.
Many times it is important to produce success so that the process will keep on going.

Another step that an organization that wants to advance community and participation must take into consideration is that there must be a special space for its partners: workers, managers, external partners and more.. It is significant to create an overall commitment of the organization and the process’ partners.

We start with implementation in a small scale: we pick one subject to be advanced in participatory tools in order to create a primarily success. When the fruit yield, the integration of public participation becomes much easier.

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