Most of the forms of public participation explored throughout this Handbook are supported by a range of practitioners whose work is often rendered invisible in the study of democratic innovations. Facilitators are key agents at the frontline of current democratic practices. This chapter is about agency and the micropolitics of participatory processes, particularly of the deliberative kind. The chapter analyses the role of facilitation practitioners, their different types, their defining practices, as well as their influence on participatory processes. Drawing on a review of interdisciplinary literature, as well as on original empirical work, this chapter offers conceptual and analytical foundations for the study of facilitation practice.
Oliver Escobar and Stephen Elstub
We live at a time when democracy is widely loved in principle but broadly criticised in practice. Democracies are currently undergoing a period of both challenge and renewal. Democratic innovations are proliferating across all areas of governance, from politics to policy and public administration. These new processes of public participation are reimagining the relationship between citizens and institutions. This Handbook advances understanding of democratic innovations, in theory and practice, by critically reviewing their importance throughout the world. The Handbook covers different types of democratic innovations; their potential to address current problems with democracy; their use in different areas of policy and governance; the various actors involved; their application in different parts of the world; their impact on citizenship and political equality; and the methods used to research them. The Handbook therefore offers a definitive overview of existing research on democratic innovations, while also setting the agenda for future research and practice.
Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar
This chapter is based on a scoping review, which finds that there is little agreement about what should be classified as ‘democratic innovations’ and a general lack of clarity and precision in the use of the term, which is causing concept stretching and hindering understanding and analysis. This is in part due to the limitations of the existing definitions and typologies. To overcome this, a morphological analysis is conducted to develop a set of ineliminable, quasi-contingent, and contextual features of democratic innovations. It is argued that democratic innovations can be seen as ‘families’ of conceptual clusters that include spaces and processes that have certain resemblance but, also differences determined by context. We argue that the new definition and typology that we offer enables a degree of consistency to be achieved in the development, understanding and analysis of ‘democratic innovations’ independent of specific contexts.
Oliver Escobar and Andrew Thompson
As an emerging field of inquiry, research into democratic innovation has tended to reproduce the methodological approaches prevalent in the disciplines it draws on. As a result, the use of mixed methods has been rather limited, despite its potential contribution to address the multidimensional lines of inquiry that typically occupy scholars of democratic innovation. This chapter offers an introduction to mixed methods research, including basic concepts and philosophical foundations, as well as an overview of key considerations about research design and analysis. It also includes examples of mixed methods research deployed to study democratic innovation, highlighting the benefits and challenges of this approach to social and political inquiry.