Economic inequalities have been increasing between and within nations, regions and cities, but questions of redistribution have to some extent been displaced by those of recognition, empowerment and diversity in urban and regional inquiry and policy. A conceptual framework drawing upon Nancy Fraser’s and Iris Marion Young’s ideas about economic and cultural injustice is proposed for evaluating local empowerment initiatives, which is then drawn upon to explore the nature and effectiveness of participation with reference to one specific New Deal For Communities partnership scheme in the London Borough of Hackney, Shoreditch – Our Way, concerned with regeneration. Our findings suggest that while participation is certainly a necessary condition for moving towards a more egalitarian society, current policies are valuable but limited in terms of the degree of representation and the extent of control. They are part of an affirmative agenda – that is, they tackle symptoms but not causes of deprivation. We conclude that if long‐term remedies are desired, then transformative solutions which address both economic and political injustice are necessary.