Participatory Governance


Democratising Bureaucracy

Calls for greater public participation in the policy process have become a commonplace in contemporary governance, advocated across the political spectrum. Part of what makes participation beguiling is that it can take many meanings. This project investigated those meanings and their implications for how to do participatory policy-making.

It outlined a new typology of four modes of public participation in social policy decisions (below). The four modes – labelled: knowledge transfer, collective decision-making, choice and voice, and arbitration and oversight – are each linked to different traditions in democratic and public administration theory. As such, they go beyond existing typologies of participation, which are either rooted in one, radical participatory, normative orientation, or abstracted from broader normative debates altogether.

Diagram of the typology of four modes of participation

This work was awarded the LSE’s Richard Titmuss Prize for Outstanding Scholarship and the Bleddyn Davies Prize for Best Early Career Paper in Policy and Politics.

Writing of varying lengths were you can find out more about this work: Blog Post | Journal Article | PhD Thesis

Embedding Participatory Governance

with Sonia Bussu, Adrian Bua and Graham Smith

The history of participatory governance seems to proceed in waves of experimentation and excitement about the latest institutional innovations – whether participatory budgeting, deliberative polling, or the most recent “deliberative wave” of citizens assemblies – only for these waves to break into disappointment, as the new innovation remains at the margins of politics and policy-making. As a result, there has been increased attention in research and practice on the “embeddedness” of participatory governance. Yet, we still lack a systematic account of what embeddedness actually means, as well as evidence about the dynamics of how it can be achieved. In a forthcoming special issue in Critical Policy Studies, our editorial takes up the former challenge of defining embeddedness, whilst the contributing articles examine through in-depth case studies in Brazil, Barcelona and Scotland how it can be/fail to be realized.

Other projects related to this theme:

Using Q-method to Understand Participatory Governance Preferences

Designing Democratic Innovations as Deliberative Systems

Posts on Participatory Governance

  • 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.
  • Are Democratic Innovations Changing Bureaucracy? New Podcast Episode
    Stephen Elstub and I joined Roberto Falanga on Episode 4 of the Democratic Innovations Podcast to discuss the implications of democratic innovations for public administration.
  • 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.
  • What are “Democratic Innovations”?
    I was the guest for the June episode of the new podcast from Goethe University, Talk Social Science To Me. The main theme was to discuss new ways of involving citizens in democracy, but the conversation led us to many topics, ranging from the effects of the pandemic on democratic governance to the role of democracies in the climate crisis. The podcast is now available on Spotify, Youtube and other podcast providers.