A Ladder of Citizen Participation
John Gaber Department Chair of City Planning and Real Estate Development and City and Regional Planning, Clemson University
“A Ladder of Citizen Participation” (1969) by Sherry Arnstein is the cornerstone for planners thinking about citizen participation. Sherry Arnstein wrote the Ladder based on her experiences working at Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 1967 to 1968 as the Chief Advisor on Citizen Participation in the Model Cities program to address problems surrounding the program’s requirement for “widespread citizen participation.” Sherry died in 1997 preventing planning researchers from learning more about the context behind the writing of her article. The lecture provides a historic understanding on the confluence of three stories that directly influenced Sherry Arnstein’s writing of “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” that sheds new insights into the person behind the Ladder, the politics that went into “widespread citizen participation” in the Model Cities program, and the call for action on the “relationship” trajectory of citizen participation that Sherry was never ever able to share in her 1969 article. The research presented in the lecture combines a life history investigation of Sherry Arnstein’s community advocacy career with archival research of recently declassified Model Cities documents at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
The Lectures in Planning Series (LiPS) is an initiative of the Urban Planning program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.