This chapter explores participation in public administration, specifically in the “Model Cities” program of Philadelphia in the 1960s. It focuses on the intertwined problems of participation and expertise in the case of the Area Wide Council, a group of black citizens who experienced direct, substantial participation (mandated by law and funded by the government) in the re-design of North Philadelphia—and then had it taken away from them. The chapter traces the grammar of participation and asks: what did participants look like before they became experts in participation? What motivated the transition to a participation dependent on contributory autonomy? It focuses on the effects of creating an experimental supplement to representative democracy, and the double bind that legal requirement created for the AWC participants. This double bind resulted in a critique from within—Sherry Arnstein’s famous "ladder of citizen participation". The last part of the chapter focuses on how this critique formed a nascent expertise in participation relying on “technical assistance” and practical approaches, that would become part of a general toolkit of participatory practices.
Keywords: Philadelphia, Model Cities Program, civil rights, public administration, expertise, representative democracy, citizen participation, ladder of citizen participation, technical assistance, public engagement