Bürgerrat Demokratie

with Brigitte Geissel and Stefan Jung

The Democratic Innovations Research Unit was commissioned by Mehr Demokratie to carry out the independent evaluation of the Bürgerrat Demokratie (Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy). The Bürgerrat Demokratie was a deliberative body of 160 randomly-selected citizens from across Germany, given the task of discussing the future of citizen participation and direct democracy on the federal level, which took place in the second half of 2019.

Our final evaluation report was finished in December 2019. Since then we have been thinking about the lessons from the Bürgerrat Demokratie for public deliberation in Germany more generally. An English language article is currently under review, so hopefully coming soon… And a short chapter on how citizens assemblies can strengthen representative democracy (in German) was published in Hendrik Herring’s new book, Parlamentarische Demokratie Heute: Erwartungen, Herausforderungen, Ideen

Designing Democratic Innovations as Deliberative Systems

with John Boswell and Graham Smith

What does it mean to design democratic innovation from a systems perspective? The demand of the deliberative systems approach that we turn our gaze from the single forum to the broader system has largely been embraced by those interested in democratic innovation. Nevertheless, there has been no analysis of whether the deliberative systems approach is helpful for doing democratic innovation. Is it possible to design a range of differentiated but interconnected participatory and deliberative settings? Does this better connect democratic innovations to mass politics? And does it promote greater procedural legitimacy? In this project, we analysed a rare case of one such attempt to design a deliberative system in the real world: the ambitious NHS Citizen initiative. NHS Citizen was an attempt by NHS England to design a complex participation system to contribute to shaping NHS policy. Drawing on a range of materials, from observation of the design process to interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, we ask what can be learnt from this unique case for designing participation systemically.

You can read more about what we found in this blog post or in our article in Political Studies.

Posts on Deliberation

  • Spotlighting the Backstage Governance of Citizens Assemblies
    Most attention on citizens assemblies understandably focuses on what happens on stage. What do the participants discuss and how deliberative are their interactions? But what happens on stage is in large part shaped by what is happening behind the scenes – for example, who decides what the agenda for discussion is, and how? In a new report from the Global Citizens’ Assemblies Network (GloCAN), we examine these backstage governance practices in cases from across the world and ask what they tell us about how to organise a global assembly.
  • Bürgerräte und Nachhaltigkeit
    Ende des Jahres 2023 nahm ich an einem Rundtischgespräch im Forum Nachhaltigkeit an der Universität Würzburg über die Rolle der Bürgerräte in der gesellschaftlichen Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit teil. Im Folgenden finden Sie eine Abschrift meines Eröffnungsvortrags.
  • Are elections a means to avoid difficult collective decisions about how we want to be governed? Some rough thoughts inspired by Michael Sandel.
    I am scribbling down these thoughts following a lecture at Goethe University by Michael Sandel on Democracies’ Discontents. There were two important but disconnected points in the lecture, which inspired a chain of thoughts for me on the nature of elections as an avoidance mechanism.
  • Comparative Democracy Podcasts
    To celebrate the new English-language MA in Comparative Democracy at Goethe University Frankfurt, Hanna Pfeifer, Julian Garritzmann and I took over the Talk Social Science To Me Podcast and produced three episodes on key themes in the field. All episodes are now available on your favourite podcast provider or click on the links below.
  • Can citizen deliberation address the climate crisis? Not if it is disconnected from politics and policymaking
    A large number of national climate assemblies have been set up across Europe to enable citizens to make climate policy recommendations. But do these bodies have any impact? Drawing on new research, John Boswell, Rikki Dean and Graham Smith argue that greater attention should be paid to how these assemblies can be integrated into the world of politics.