Design matters: Tensions between democratic quality and productive collaboration

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Abstract

In response to increasing democratic disenchantment, and the risk of losing legitimacy, many local governments are experimenting with new, innovative forms of citizen involvement. This is also the case in the Danish non-profit public housing sector, which is currently experiencing declining resident participation in a formerly highly well organized and successful form of democratic resident organization. As a result of this decline in resident participation, elected board members have become isolated, and the lack of input from local residents in terms of ideas, knowledge and political support has reduced the boards’ ability to make political decisions that respond to the residents’ problems and needs. Theories of collaborative governance propose that the introduction of interactive forms of democracy and policy-making that bring politicians and residents together may offer promising means to engage citizens and enhance the quality of democratic decision-making. This article presents the results of a case study of two local housing associations that are experimenting with innovative forms of democracy through different designs. One housing association has an open access design and the other one a restricted access design. The article studies how the two different innovative democratic designs affect collaboration between residents and their political representatives. Based on a combination of interviews, observations and documents, the case study shows that innovative democratic designs strengthens the quality of political decisions and relations between residents and political representatives. Surprisingly, the case study also finds that the open access design features greater secrecy than the restricted access design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalThe Innovation Journal - Public Sector Innovation Journal
Volume25
Issue number3
ISSN1715-3816
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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