This article explores a key element of New Labour's modernisation programme\ud - that of participation in the public policy and decision making processes. Whilst\ud this may appear to be a relatively straightforward concept, its translation into\ud practice can be complex and confusing, which may in turn impact on the policy\ud making process and potentially on policy outcomes. The involvement of groups\ud such as 'users' might be seen as a rational approach to the policy process,\ud however little consideration has been given to the process once people are\ud involved, on the efects this may have on participants, or on the relevance and\ud usefulness of policy outcomes. This article argues that one dimension that has\ud been largely neglected is the capacities in which people participate in the\ud decision making processes and argues for the need to develop a more focussed\ud approach. This would require much greater consideration than at present of the\ud distinction between participation undertaken by individuals and that carried out\ud through groups. This would make a significant contribution to policy making as\ud it would help to clarify the focus and intention of participation for different\ud initiatives; for those who seek to encourage participation; and for those who\ud participate, so that they are clear in what capacity they are participating
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