"The design of inclusive participatory systems in highly diverse societies : a case study on the usage of the C3 notification system in Langa, Cape Town"
In recent years the concept of public participation has been embraced by governments around the world to promote citizen involvement in decision making processes both to deepen local democracy and to ensure greater effectiveness in the delivery of public services. Implementing effective participatory systems, however, has proven to be especially challenging in highly diverse societies. Despite the best intentions of policy makers, the issue of exclusion, in particular, remains problematic as participatory systems frequently fail to address the concerns of poor communities who may not even be aware of their existence. Taking as a case study the C3 notification system introduced by the City of Cape Town to facilitate citizen reporting on faulty public services, this study examined the extent to which the design and implementation of a participatory model is of benefit to poor communities in the township of Langa. Based on a qualitative methodology, which included a series of interviews with municipal officials and office bearers as well as residents of Langa, the research examined the extent to which the notification system is used by local communities and to what effect. Viewed through the lens of social exclusion theory, the findings point to the fact that the C3 system was not only based on a best-practice model imported from an advanced Western nation, but it was oriented to the needs of more affluent citizens and, as such, it failed to take into account the specific needs of poor households who frequently lack even basic services and hence have nothing to report on. As a consequence, what was intended as a mechanism for promoting greater citizen participation in service delivery processes has effectively excluded a significant proportion of the most poor and vulnerable.