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 37: Comparative approaches to the study of democratic innovation

Matt Ryan


The chapter aims to explain why comparative approaches to Democratic Innovations (DI) are important. I argue that DI scholarship needs to be aware of best practices and methodological developments in comparative political science, and that there are risks to particularising the study of democratic innovation. DI scholarship has sometimes struggled to negotiate the tension between its normative democratising project and the empirical work aimed at understanding democratic participation in practice. More comparison is a good answer to this problem. I trace developments of comparison in DI research using examples that compare both small and large numbers of cases. I argue that the conceptual haziness of DI has led scholars to favour case-studies or individual-level behavioural data (participant surveys or quasi-experiments) for comparison. Some opportunities for comparison are being missed. I suggest that now is time to mainstream systematic comparison in the study of DI.

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