Participation chain model

In their study of member participation in a co-operative group, Simmons and Birchall (2003) proposed the participation chain model, which was based on the mutual incentives theory’ (MIT) developed by Homans (1974, cited in Simmons and Birchall, 2003). MIT joins two theories of motivation, one individualistic and the other collectivistic. The individualistic theory assumes that behaviour is motivated by punishments and rewards. The collectivistic theory developed by Sorokin (1954) considers participation to be motivated by three variables:

  • 1 Shared goals: people express mutual needs that translate into common goals
  • 2 Shared values: people feel a sense of duty to participate as an expression of common values
  • 3 Sense of community: people identify with and care about other people who either live in the same area or are like them in some respect.
  • (Sorokin, 1954, cited in Simmons and Birchall, 2003, p. 6).

Individualistic positive incentives include benefits and habits, while negative incentives include costs, opportunity costs and satiation. Opportunity’ costs are determined by the lost opportunities that arise from declining to participate in a particular activity. Benefits are subdivided into external and internal benefits; external benefits are material/tangible advantages, while internal benefits are subjectively perceived advantages.

However, Simmons and Birchall (2003) regarded MIT as not sufficiently inclusive of all the variables involved in influencing participation. Therefore, the authors included the categorisation suggested by Whiteley and Seyd (1996, cited in Pattie et al., 2003), a scheme that included incentive-based explanations as demand-side models of participation as well as supply-side models. These models led to the inclusion of the variables personal resources and mobilisation factors. Subsequently, Simmons and Birchall (2003) expanded their MIT to include these factors as a stage of a multilevel participation chain: the first level consists of resources, including time, money, skills and confidence; the second level involves the mobilisation of resources. Mobilisation is comprised of three elements: issues, opportunities and recruitment efforts. Finally, the last stage is motivations (as originally outlined in the MIT). The term issues concerns the importance that the object of participation assumes for participants, a variable whose importance has been remarked by others (Lowndes et al., 2001). Opportunities are the presence of good quality opportunities to participate. Recruitment efforts are passive or active recruitment activities. By passive, the authors mean that the opportunity is made public without directly asking potential participants; active recruitment will involve this direct asking.

The authors tested the model in a study regarding participation in the governance of a UK co-operative group (Birchall and Simmons, 2004). Members of the co-operative group were sensitive to the benefits that the experience of participating provided to them, although internal benefits (e.g. valuable learning experience) were mostly significant for respondents rather than external benefits (e.g. financial reward). Interestingly, collectivistic incentives were the most important individual benefits: this result is probably related to the co-operative specificity of an organisation highly motivated by a certain set of values (social justice, egalitarianism). Finally, mobilisation was significant in eliciting participation, particularly skills derived from previous experience and face-to-face recruitment efforts.

A rational choice model for environmental collective activism

Lubell (2002) presented a rational model of collective action for environmental activism, in which he adapted the collective interest model, a model of collective action derived from the work of Olson (1965). In his model, Lubell suimnarised the variables influencing environmental activism in the following equation:

EV= [(Pg + Pi) * V] - С + В

In this equation, EV is environmental activism, the expected value of participation; Pg is group efficacy; Pi is personal efficacy; V is the value of the collective good; C is the selective cost of participation; and В is the selective benefit of participation (Lubell, 2002, p. 433). Although this model includes some psychological variables (for example, personal efficacy), it lacks a comprehensive view of the variables involved in the personal choice to engage in environmentally responsible behaviours (ERBs), such as attitudinal variables or social pressure.

Justice-based models

Tyler et al. (1986) outlined a fairness-based psychological model or justice- based model. The authors distinguish between a procedural justice-based model and a distributive justice-based model, although these models are viewed as operating simultaneously. Their basic assumption is that citizens judge the fairness of a certain process produced by policies as well as the fairness of its outcomes. In the case of distributive justice, the focus of the judgement is on the outcome of the process. In the case of procedural justice, the evaluation is on the process. Tyler et al suggest that governments could retain the support of citizens in the presence of a process perceived as fair, even if the outcome would penalise citizens: “Similarly a justice based perspective suggests that government might be able to restrict citizens and limit the benefits they receive in a future era of scarcity without losing suppoxt from the public if they do so fairly” (Tyler et al, 1986, p. 976). Tyler et al. (1986) considered data collected in 14 different studies; in these studies, judgements about gain and loss (rational choice) were compared with justice-based evaluations in their influence on political evaluations, voting behaviours and non-voting behaviours (e.g. writing to a member of Congress). When the two different categories of judgements were compared, the importance of justice-based judgements in influencing the dependent variables became clear.

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