Who Participates and Why: Building a Process Model of Citizen Participation

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Initiating and sustaining sufficient levels of participation among residents in low-income and urban neighborhoods have become significant focuses of many initiatives that strive to develop healthy communities. This study examines the factors associated with citizen participation levels in resident leaders and followers in seven low-income neighborhoods in one community. Overall, the findings suggest that different factors facilitate participation in leaders and followers. Leaders are more likely to actively participate in neighborhood and community affairs if they perceive themselves as having the skills needed to organize others and make change happen. Whereas perceived skill levels also matter for followers, these residents are strongly influenced by the norms for activism within their neighborhood. These norms mediate the impact of neighborhood readiness and capacity for change on citizen participation levels. Implications for funders and practitioners interested in promoting healthy communities are discussed.

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