From the Archives - Beyond Access: Informed Participation and Empowerment

A challenge for supporting informed participation is in providing a mechanism allowing various participants to integrate their perspectives in a meaningful way. To do so, it is important to support the process of reflection-in-action. As participants act upon a problem, breakdowns occur due to incomplete understanding of the underlying problem, conflicts among perspectives, or the absence of shared understanding. By supporting the process of reflection within this shared context, opportunities arise for building upon these breakdowns in ways that integrate the various perspectives and expertise, while enhancing shared understanding. 

Supporting informed participation requires processes that integrate the individual and the group knowledge through collaborative constructions. Information spaces need to be constructed collaboratively and integrated into the work and social practices of the community. These collaborative constructions result in work products that are enriched by the multiple perspectives emerging through community discourse. 

Effectively supporting informed participation and empowerment is a socio-technical problem in which the social support and the technical infrastructure for [solving] open-ended problems go hand in hand.