Participation can be performed at different levels. Look at the decision-making pyramid.
Informing is the simplest form of participation. It consists in communicating decisions that have already been taken. It does not require any activity on the part of the participants and makes them passive observers that have no influence over the decision-making process.
Example: students are informed about the adoption of the school’s statute.
Consultation is a bit more engaging. It gives the participants an opportunity to express their opinions on matters that are important for them and concern them directly. In such a participatory activity, the stakeholders play the role of consultants whose views are heard, collected and analysed, but not necessarily taken into account. Both existing solutions and planned actions can be consulted. In this way, information on the participants’ needs can be collected.
Example: before a student is expelled, other students’ opinions on the matter can be collected and taken into consideration.
Co-deciding is the next level of participation. It assumes partnership and equal status of those who will be affected by the decisions. Some of the power is shared in the decision-making process.
Example: before applying for giving the school an official patron, students make decisions together with the adults and everyone involved has to agree.
Deciding is the highest level of participation in decision-making. Some part of the power and responsibility is given to the participants of the process. In this way, they have a real say in matters that concern them directly.
Example: in choosing Student Board representatives students make decisions of their own, without the participation of the teachers or the principal.