Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance
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Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance

Edited by Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar

Democratic innovations are proliferating in politics, governance, 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 overarching themes are a focus on citizens and their relationship to these innovations, and the resulting effects on political equality. The Handbook therefore offers a definitive overview of existing research on democratic innovations, while also setting the agenda for future research and practice.
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Chapter 21: Democratic innovation in social policy

Rikki Dean


The government departments, administrative agencies and public services that undertake social policy functions are arguably the most fertile ground for democratic innovation. This chapter asks: what has been driving the growth of participatory policy-making, what forms has it taken, what types of democratic innovation are commonly employed, and to what ends? It argues increased participation is rooted in multiple critiques of the competence and benevolence of public organisations, which has created four primary modes of participation: knowledge transfer, collective decision-making, choice and voice and arbitration and oversight. The chapter describes how mini-publics and collaborative governance have proved the most popular innovations because they can be flexibly interpreted to suit these different modes. It concludes with suggestions for expanding the conceptual repertoire of democratic innovations to encompass the variety of participatory reforms of public administration, and to refocus our efforts on understanding how democratic innovation can tackle inequalities.

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