Citizen Engagement and Participation

Democratic Innovations in Citizen Engagement and Participation

As commonly understood, representative democracy achieves a division of labour between citizens and politicians while regular elections enable citizens to hold governments accountable. While this model remains the primary mode of governance in advanced democracies, there has been a striking trend in recent years toward broadening citizen engagement in policy making and implementation.

Using devices ranging from public hearings and stakeholder meetings to citizen assemblies and deliberative forums, governments are increasingly empowering ordinary citizens to design solutions and set priorities on some of the most sensitive public issues.

Policy makers have also expanded opportunities for citizen influence in the delivery of public services, empowering beneficiaries as consumers and opening new venues for the exercise of voice.

Why have political elites sometimes chosen to loosen their own grip on decision-making processes by granting ordinary citizens a larger role? Which democratic experiments have worked best, and which have backfired? Have these innovations in governance increased government responsiveness to citizens’ demands or won public trust?

Conferences and Workshops:

When Citizens Decide: The Challenges of Large Scale Public Engagement
Conference 1-2 May 2008

Rethinking Democratic Representation
Conference Workshop 18-19 May 2006
Schedule of Presenters and Topics in PDF format

Theorizing Democratic Renewal: The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly and Beyond
Workshop 10-11 June 2005
Summary in PDF format