Participatory Institutions: circulations, scales and national frameworks

Participatory Institutions: circulations, scales and national frameworks


Brian Wampler (Boise University)

Gilles Pradeau (GIS Participation)

Joseph-Désiré Som-1 (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité)


Effective decision-making processes are increasingly linked to participatory governance as a new democratic imperative (Baiocchi & Ganuza, 2016). However, when some local governments adopt participatory institutions, the actual implementation of these innovative processes reveal different, and often contradictory, goals. Participatory governance embraces a variety of tools that seems to compete among each other in order to solve public problems (Petric, 2012; Wampler, 2014; Fung, 2015; Cabannes & Lipietz, 2015). Within participatory governance, there are differing emphasis on deepening democracy, improving deliberation, using new technologies to improve citizens’ access and, importantly, as a “good governance” techniques.  This section seeks to better understand the spread and adaptation of participatory institutions.

A large part of the literature suggests that participatory tools travel thanks to international organizations (Porto de Oliveira, 2017) and public participation professionals (Mazeaud & al., 2016; Bherer, & al., 2017; Wampler & Hartz-Karp, 2012), and foster venues where “international civil servants”, “internationalised public sector official” and “transnational policy professionals” could meet and learn from each other (Stone 2017). The literature also shows that decentralization is a framework for the very definition of local policies, which are related to diffusion mechanisms:  learning, emulation, and  competition. New research strategies could help to understand why some tools contributing to successful policies could fail to travel as standardized solutions (Dunlop & Claudio, 2013; Gilardi, 2016).

This session calls for papers that focus on circulation of public participation professionals and participatory logics, as they dialogue with different scales of public administrations officials as well as different moments of state-building (Som-1 & De Facci, 2017).

We look forward to receiving papers that focus on the following issues:

  1. How participatory ideals are travelling
  • Do participatory institutions create new types of legitimacy for public and private bureaucracies?
  • The issue of scale: How effective are participatory institutions when they are established via national legislation, constitutional norms and other top-down incentives?
  • To what extent are participatory institutions contributing to democratize bureaucracy?
  • What are the tension between PIs as radical democratic institutions and governance tools?  To what extent are the radical democratic elements present
  • When and where do we see the standardization and (non-)reception of similar terms and strategies (empowerment, participatory planning, third-sector economy,…)? When and where are governments reinventing existing participatory institutions and when are they creating new insitutions?
  1. Circulation of professionals and activists
  • What explains the development of different an epistemic community around participatory institutions? What are the functions of a national network of cities?
  • Policy learning and failure to learn: what do public participation professional learn from policy failure? How organizations are evaluating processes and promoting standards through lobbying or certification?
  • Are profit and non-for-profit organizations shaping participation with different goals?
  1. What tools are travelling?
  • Diversity of reception of digital tools and their adaptation (i.e., Loomio, Consul,
  • The deliberative turn of constitution-making
  • South-south cooperation and adaptation of different program rules