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Addressing political decision-makers’ reluctance towards democratic renewal in Germany, UK and France

Investigating political leaders' hesitancy towards democratic innovations in Germany, France, and the UK, this rpoject aims to identify barriers to democratic renewal and suggest strategies for more inclusive systems.


An international comparative research project on democratic innovations 

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the variety of practices, ideas and initiatives that engage with democratic renewal. Rethinking public participation processes, these initiatives seek to renew and innovate our democratic systems, try to make them more resilient, equitable and inclusive and intend to transform the way people get involved in politics. From citizens’ budgets and assemblies to public consultation campaigns targeted at under-represented groups, referenda and new online tools, numerous organisations have made efforts to enhance the quality and quantity of publics’ contributions to the political decision-making process.

While there has been much research on the attitudes and experiences of citizens and civil society actors involved in such processes, less attention has been placed on the attitudes of decision-makers so far. While some have begun to embrace democratic renewal, many politicians remain somewhat hesitant. Frequently, they invoke a supposed tension between representative democracy in its classic forms and non-conventional forms of political representation and decision-making. However, it remains largely unclear what precise concerns and attitudes inform their reluctance overall. This qualitative research project aims to fill this gap and investigate in-depth the perceived reluctance of political decision-makers towards democratic renewal.

As an international comparative research project in Germany, France and the UK, this project sought to understand, if and why decision-makers are hesitant or supportive towards the ideas and implementation of democratic innovations across these different contexts. It investigated thoroughly what precisely decision-makers are concerned about when it comes to institutional transformations of democratic involvement.

In the course of the project d|part and its partners, François-Xavier Demoures from Grand-Récit (FR) and Daniel Kenealy from the University of Edinburgh (UK), conducted a series of qualitative interviews with decision-makers in Germany, France and the UK (Scotland and England). The interviewees not only included politicians but civil servants and policy professionals, and came from across the political spectrum and represent multiple levels of governance and geographies. Additionally, the team will carried out workshops in Germany, France, Scotland and England, brought together civil society actors and politicians and engaged them in a joint discussion on democratic innovations.

Building upon the results of the research, the project formulated recommendations and practical guidelines for practitioners on addressing decision-makers’ reluctance towards democratic renewal. The results were published in autumn 2023 and made accessible on this website.

The project was funded by the Open Society Foundations.

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