Citizenship and Participation

undefinedARK aims to encourage citizenship and participation in all areas of our community.

In order to take forward our work in this area, we appointed a Tenant & Service User Participation Officer, who ensures that our tenants and service users are supported to become involved, and to have a voice, both within ARK, and in other projects and initiatives in local communities.

We believe that citizenship and participation are about everyone having certain rights and responsibilities and how those rights and responsibilities are put into practice. Anyone can be actively involved in their community if they want to be.

What does Citizenship mean?

 Citizenship is about everyone having certain rights and responsibilities.

 Rights such as:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to get married
  • The right to work
  • The right not to be discriminated against

 Responsibilities such as:

  • Helping other people
  • Respecting others
  • Not discriminating against anyone
  • Not breaking the law

Citizenship is about how you put your rights and responsibilities into practice. It might be about voting, or getting involved in political activities. It might be about being actively involved in your community, perhaps by taking part in groups and associations.

Having a voice, and being listened to, is at the heart of citizenship.

Go to our Speak Out! section to find out how you can have your say.

What do people need to be active citizens?

 - Knowledge

People need knowledge and information about how decisions are made. This means understanding how councils, governments, community groups and systems work.

 - Sharing ideas and getting support to take action

Citizenship is about expressing your opinions but also listening to others and coming together to agree decisions and make a plan of action. You should be able to say what you think and exercise your rights as a citizen. An example of this might be that if any adult wants to work then support and information on benefits etc. should be provided to try to make this possible.

- Strong values

How we live our lives and what we do depends on our values and attitudes. Active citizens tend to have a strong sense of fairness and caring for others. Citizens must feel they can make a difference and have some control over their lives. For example it is worth writing to your MP about something that you care about because your voice as a citizen matters.

How do people learn citizenship?

  • By participating (taking part). 
  • Most of us have opportunities to participate in groups and activities and we can learn a lot from this.
  • Taking part in groups means we can gain confidence and learn more about society. We might also develop new skills such as taking minutes or chairing meetings.
  • Participation is a natural human thing. If it is not happening, it’s because there are some barriers. So to promote participation, the barriers need to be removed.

 To participate fully you need:

  • Information – if you don’t know or don’t understand, or are given the wrong information, you can’t participate.
  • Vision – to think with others about where you want to go.
  • Connections – to help overcome the separation and isolation that services create by focusing on people as ‘client groups’.
  • Relationships – focus on building relationships within the community and connecting with others
  • Room for everyone – this means welcoming differences between people, and encouraging different points of view and different ways of doing things
  • Discussions – questioning, challenging, suggesting alternatives, negotiating until you reach an agreement.
  • Education
  • Sharing ideas is important – people learn from each other by sharing their stories and hearing about others' experiences.

 When discussing concerns and coming up with solutions sometimes people realise they need to have more knowledge and information about the issues.

Complaints

Being an active citizen also means being able to complain if you are not happy about something that affects you. Find out more about how to make a complaint.