Deliberative mini-publics: defining and designing

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Harris, Clodagh
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Edward Elgar Publishing
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Modern systems of governance that have depoliticised political life, privatised public resources, outsourced service provision and so on have served to distance citizens from the loci of power. These developments and others have contributed to the ‘democratic malaise’ evident in many industrialised democracies today and are comprehensively analysed by the co-editors in the introduction. One response to this ‘malaise’ has been the creation of democratic innovations that aim to enhance (that is, widen and deepen) citizen participation in political decision making. The mini-public is one such innovation. Aiming to harness the views and ideas of citizens, mini-publics consist of groups of citizens that engage in facilitated deliberations on an issue and make public recommendations. Bridging the gap between deliberative democratic theory and practice, they have the potential to give citizens deeper levels of engagement at the agenda setting, decision-making, and implementation stages of political processes. They may therefore contribute to more innovative policy solutions and more legitimate politics, as those affected by the decision have an input. Mini-publics may also improve implementation strategies, enhance democratic skills, and political education. Their success in achieving some or any of these hinges on their design and their links to ‘empowered spaces’, that is the institutions and actors that make political decisions (Dryzek, 2010). Referring to a wide range of international examples, this chapter seeks to provide a definition of what is meant by a mini-public and critically examines both normatively and empirically the micro and macro design choices available to those involved in establishing them with regard to input, throughput, and output legitimacy.
Democratic innovations , Legitimacy , Mini-public , Public participation , Citizens
Harris, C. (2019) 'Deliberative Mini-publics: Defining and Designing' In: Elstub, S. and Escobar, O. (eds) The Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA USA: Edward Elgar. isbn: 978 1 78643 385 5
© Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar 2019. All rights reserved.