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Abstract

In 1979, Aaron Wildavsky published a lengthy paper called “Citizens as Analysts” in which he developed his thoughts on public participation. For today’s scholars and practitioners from the health sector, this paper is intriguing and attractive. It is intriguing because the author is clear that the ultimate goal of public participation is not the exercise of direct political authority, but instead the development of better policies and more sustainable institutions. While people don’t need to participate in every single decision to comply, they need to feel that overall, the process has been designed to take their interests into account. Wildavsky’s paper is also attractive because its author dealt upfront with the normative aspects of public participation research. In his view, public participation is one example of a teleological social process, defined by its ends rather than by its initial conditions. Contrary to some current approaches to public deliberation, we are invited to pay more attention to the outcomes of the process than to the process itself.

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