The feeling of participation: everyday spaces and urban change.
Initiatives around ‘public participation’ and ‘community involvement’ have become increasingly central to UK government policy programmes, particularly within interventions aimed at disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These initiatives have been the subject of extensive critical comment, essentially focusing on the ways in which power is often maintained by state agencies, whatever the surrounding rhetoric. This article attempts to consider what more productive forms of participation might feel like, through drawing on fieldwork with two small community groups on housing estates in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, to look at how and why they were able to generate successful participation in their activities. The importance of the small-scale interactions and feelings that made up their spaces of participation is explored. These can be characterised through ideas such as ‘feeling comfortable’, ‘feeling at home’, ‘helping out’ and ‘keeping going’, and involve everyday sociability and informal forms of volunteering. If government is serious about supporting political participation in such contexts it needs to consider how official projects might learn from these kinds of spaces.
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