New report: Mapping Participation for Democratic Innovations

20 Nov 2023
New report: Mapping Participation for Democratic Innovations

Prof Jason Chilvers (UKERC Co-Director and Observatory Lead) and Dr Phedeas Stephanides (Senior Researcher) have published a new briefing reporting on the findings of a collaborative experiment with partners from the Climate Citizens Project at Lancaster University, the Climate Change Committee, and Shared Future CIC on public engagement with home energy decarbonisation.

This experiment in evaluating a citizens’ panel on home energy decarbonisation advances on standard approaches to evaluating deliberative and participatory processes in three main ways:

  • First, the experiment introduced new evaluative questions and reflexive criteria – emerging in Science and Technology Studies and work on remaking participation – that move beyond standard deliberative criteria to also consider the exclusions, interrelations, and effects of participation.
  • Second, we introduced our Observatory mappings of public engagement to situate this particular deliberative mini-public in a wider system of participation on home energy decarbonisation.
  • Third, rather than the dominant practice of independent evaluations of participatory processes that mainly offer insights ‘after the event’ – in this experiment we attempted a more collaborative, formative and ongoing evaluation.

Key findings

Overall, the citizens’ panel was found to perform well against standard deliberative criteria whereas more reflexive qualities of participation introduced in the experiment proved more challenging for the organisers to address.

The experiment demonstrated that approaches to mapping public engagement can play important roles in shaping, enhancing, and situating democratic innovations. For example, an Observatory mapping prompted the organisers to reflect on the exclusions of the citizens’ panel which led to a new way of reporting on deliberative processes, as well as novel transformations in process design, in the selection of expert speakers, and in evaluation.

This Observatory experiment has shown how evaluations of participation can benefit from being more collaborative, formative, reflexive, and anticipatory. A further recommendation is the need to be more open about the exclusions that occur in public engagement processes. It was found that opening up to diverse forms of participation and uncertainties about publics does not necessarily lessen the strength and credibility of participatory processes and in many ways can make them more robust.

Download the full report here: