Varieties of participation

In the EU eGovernment Benchmarking 2010+ report by Alexander Schellong advantage is made of the “democracy cube” developed by Archon Fung, I presume, one of his colleagues at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Fung’s paper, recipient of 81 citations to-date, is entitled “Varieties of Participation in Complex Governance” and is well worth a read in its own right.

Two brief sentences from the conclusion, starting on page 23 say it all for me:

“Citizens can be the shock troops of democracy. Properly deployed, their local knowledge, wisdom, commitment, authority, even rectitude can can address wicked failures of legitimacy, justice, and effectiveness in representative and bureaucratic institutions.”

“Reaping (indeed perceiving) these pragmatic benefits for democracy, however, requires a footloose analytic approach that jettisons preconceptions about what participatory democracy should look like and what it should do in favor of a searching examination of the actual forms and contributions of participation.”

Currently we are recycling mechanisms of approaching citizens and pretending they are new and open. Real change will require real changes.

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