Renegotiating roles in local governments: Facing resistances to citizen participation in Chile

Matias Sanfuentes, Matias Garreton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article presents a reflective analysis of a participatory action research between the authors’ institution and the Community Development Directorate of Santiago Municipality. This work generated organizational change for implementing new citizen participation policies through a collective reflection about ambiguous roles and organizational paradoxes that allowed to harness the creative potential of emotions and embodied knowledge of public officers. Through workshops of organizational role analysis, a communicative space was built to contain the organizational contradictions generated by the lack of definitions of fieldwork agents’ roles and the insufficient institutional support. This led to implement a new approach for citizen participation, with an unprecedented inter-sectoral structure within this municipality. However, in the absence of structural incentives for internal cooperation, this development was abandoned by the authorities at the onset of an unsuccessful re-election campaign. Nevertheless, these temporary achievements show the usefulness of socio-analytic methods for transforming organizations in rigid institutional frameworks. This experience was a first attempt to provide institutional support for inter-sectoral citizen participation policies in Santiago, suggesting ways to generate and sustain long-term changes that are sorely needed in Chilean institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-432
Number of pages22
JournalAction Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Participatory action research
  • communicative space
  • emotions
  • learning from failure
  • organizational change
  • role analysis


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