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

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 seeks to under­stand, if and why deci­sion-mak­ers are hes­i­tant or sup­port­ive towards the ideas and imple­men­ta­tion of demo­c­ra­t­ic inno­va­tions across these dif­fer­ent con­texts. It will inves­ti­gate 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), will con­duct a series of qual­i­ta­tive inter­views with deci­sion-mak­ers in Ger­many, France and the UK (Scot­land and Eng­land). The inter­vie­wees will not only include politi­cians but civ­il ser­vants and pol­i­cy pro­fes­sion­als, and will come from across the polit­i­cal spec­trum and rep­re­sent mul­ti­ple lev­els of gov­er­nance and geo­gra­phies. Addi­tion­al­ly, the team will car­ry out work­shops in Ger­many, France, Scot­land and Eng­land, bring­ing togeth­er civ­il soci­ety actors and politi­cians and engag­ing them in a joint dis­cus­sion on demo­c­ra­t­ic innovations.


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


The project is fund­ed by the Open Soci­ety Foundations.