Evaluating participatory innovations - exemplifying the framework

In the evaluation research to date, the case study approach prevails and most studies examine the different innovations separately.7 Until recently, most studies focused on one innovation in one country, but did not compare the impacts of the case with other innovations or countries. Thus, research is still piecemeal. The following exemplary application of the framework therefore cannot provide a full-fledged evaluation of participatory innovations tried out in European states. And it can certainly not take into account and re-analyze all existing case studies. But, it is a start in trying to develop hypotheses pointing at future research.

Participatory innovations in Europe - common trends and specific patterns

Generally, the inclusion of citizens and citizens’ associations in political decision making is not new in Europe. In every democracy, the representative bodies decide how to guarantee the flow of input. However, traditions of how to transfer citizens’ preferences to the representatives (and back) differ. Some countries traditionally have few formal rules regulating the integration of citizens and citizens’ associations into the legislative process, whereas others have strict regulations. In France, for example, with its republican tradition, governmental actors are less interested in involving citizens’ groups in legislative decision-making processes, whereas The Netherlands has a long tradition of consultation and negotiation in a relatively formalized way. For example, the so-called Sociaal-Economische Raad (SER), consisting of employers, employees and experts, is an important voice in the Dutch legislative process and the decision-making bodies are legally obliged to ask the Raad for advice on socio-economic issues.

In spite of the diverse traditions, changes towards more citizens’ participation can be observed within most European states since the 1990s, often at the local level (see, for example, Vetter and Kersting 2003: 335). Most countries have introduced some form of participatory innovation. Most post-socialist states established participatory options in their constitutions at the beginning of the 1990s and also many consolidated democracies passed new laws to enforce participation, such as Great Britain, France and Germany.

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