Exploring our participation ~ a place approach


These activities have been designed to explore the theme of participation.

Our own personal sense of citizenship in a place or community often depends upon the extent to which we participate in it, or feel that we have a say in how decisions are made. As shoppers, students, teachers, church-goers, voters … we all play different roles in the workings of our community. Our participation can take many forms, both formal and informal, or on an individual or group basis.


  • To investigate the many different ways that we participate in society, both formally and informally
  • To identify and explore factors that influence our participation

How do we participate?

Outlined below are a selection of introductory activities for exploring the concept of participation, using photographs numbered 1 to 16 in the Building new citizenship pack [or those from a local newspaper or website].

Observation activity

Arrange students into small working groups, and give each group a number of photographs. They should then write down as many examples as they can find in the photographs of people participating in their community [each example to be written on a separate card or piece of paper]. In addition they should then add a further five ways that they imagine people in Derry might participate.

Sorting activity

Students could then be asked to sort these examples of participation according to different criteria, giving reasons for their choice.

For example:

Local community/city level
Regular participation/occasional
Any other criteria?

Ranking activity

Students to think of an example where they have participated in school or community life as a member of a group. As a whole class, brainstorm factors that influenced them to get involved.

Nine factors should then be selected and written on separate pieces of paper. Working in groups students should then discuss each factor and rank them in a diamond pattern in order of priority [most important at the top, least important at the bottom]. Results to be fed back for discussion as a whole class.

Factors might include:

  • being made to feel welcome in the group by others
  • being interested in the activity of the group
  • being part of the group ‘looked good to others’
  • wanting to have a say – make a positive contribution

This activity could be extended to explore factors that might discourage participation, either at the outset or at a later stage. Can students agree the three most important factors that support or encourage participation?

Enquiry activity

Students should then choose one image from the set, which they feel is an interesting example of participation [perhaps because it raises questions or issues].

  • brainstorm questions that they would like to ask the people in the photograph to find out more about what is going on.
  • write down possible ‘influences’ and ‘outcomes’ around the photograph, ie. what factors might have influenced people’s participation in this activity, what might be the outcomes [either for the individuals or the wider community] of this participation?

Photograph: Neil Jarman


Extension Ideas

Students could find out more about what opportunities there are for getting more involved in their school or local area, and design a poster advertising these opportunities.

Web Links

The internet offers a new dimension to the idea of participation. Websites and e-mail offer opportunities for getting involved in issues and campaigns, or expressing viewpoints for example as consumers.

An activity might be to choose an issue eg. ‘Third World’ Debt and to investigate what websites exist for enabling participation on such an issue. Discussion might then focus on potential implications of this technology for our sense of local/global citizenship.