Digital Innovation in Latin America: How Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru have been experimenting with E-participation
Overcoming state dependence may be crucial for digital innovations to transform democracy by engaging more citizens in the political process.
*This article was originally published in the independent online magazine www.opendemocracy.net, on June 6, 2017.> Download
Moving beyond input legitimacy: When do democratic innovations affect policy making?
This article makes three key contributions to debates surrounding the effectiveness of democratic innovation, deliberation and participation in representative political systems. In the first instance, it argues that more attention should be paid to the role that participation actually plays in governance. The literature on democratic institutional design often neglects concern about the effects of innovative institutional designs on more traditional representative fora, at the expense of concerns about their internal procedures. Second, the article argues that despite limitations, replicable systematic comparison of the effects of institutional design is both necessary and possible even at the level of national governance. A comparative analysis of 31 cases of National Public Policy Conferences (NPPCs) in Brazil is presented. Finally, the article shows that popular deliberative assemblies that vary in their familiarity and their policy area of interest, and that organise their structure and sequence deliberation in different ways can be associated with differential effects on both option analysis and option selection stages of the policy process, respectively.> Download
Does digital democracy improve democracy?
The article argues that the game-changer for democracy is not the revitalization of the traditional means of political participation like elections, petition-signing and protests through digital tools. Rather, the real change on how democracy works, governments rule, and representation is delivered, comes from entirely new means of e-participation, or the so-called digital democratic innovations.
Can Democratic Innovations Improve the Quality of Democracy? A Response from Latin America
Assessing the quality of democracy became a central concern in a landscape of increasing political disaffection and disenchantment with democratic institutions. Regardless of various existing explanations for the perceived decline of public trust in institutions like parties and parliaments (Dalton 2003; Inglehart 1997; Norris 2002), the conviction that reforms are necessary is shared by scholars and governments alike (Dalton, Scarrow and Cain 2003). What is not yet clear, however, is which model of “good democracy” can better countervail political disillusionment and enhance the quality of democracy everywhere it has grown roots.> Download
The Impact of Participatory Democracy: Evidence from Brazil's National Public Policy Conferences
Political theorists and empirical scholars have long assumed that democracy and participation are necessarily in tension. Partly for this reason, research on participatory democracy has focused on “mini-publics”—relatively small-scale and/or local practices. Through an exploration of Brazil's National Public Policy Conferences, we provide the first evidence that participatory governance practices can directly shape important national public policy outcomes at the national level. Our findings call into question the longstanding critique that participatory practices are impractical on a large scale and thus unimportant to the overall functioning and quality of democracy. We find that participatory practices can deepen democratic regimes by opening the doors for greater and more direct civil society input into the substantive content of national governance.> Download
The Pragmatic Turn of Democracy in Latin America
The new democracies of Latin America that emerged with the third wave of democratization have now completed their transitions and have reached an advanced stage of their consolidation processes, despite some delays caused by clientelism, corruption, populism and the other alleged ‘deficiencies’ taken as indicative of imperfect institutionalization and inadequate government performance (Diamond, Hartlyn, Linz and Lipset 1999; Merkel 2004). According to the literature, the supposed inability of Latin American governments to promote growth and development, reduce poverty and inequality, and control inflation and crime explain their successive failures (Fox 1994; Mainwaring 1999; Hagopian and Mainwaring 2005) and is a symptom of a poor state performance that affected citizens’ trust in political institutions and led to a crisis of representation in the region (Mainwaring 2006).> Download
The squared circle of participatory democracy: scaling up deliberation to the national level
Can participation be scaled up to the national level? And if so, can large-scale participation be attained without forfeiting deliberation? This article addresses these two questions, providing empirical evidence that deliberation can be scaled up, together with participation, and manage to impact on national-level policies. It argues that participation can be feasible at the national level, and that deliberation can be effective on a large scale, once the appropriate institutional design is in place. A theoretical framework composed of two overlapping dimensions (feasibility and effectiveness) is proposed to assess the degree to which participation and deliberation can be scaled up. As for the feasibility of large-scale participation, the article argues that the institutional design of participatory experiments should allow participation to be scaled up according to three criteria: actors, space, and volume. As for the effectiveness of deliberation, it is argued that large participatory experiments should provide for the deliberative process to follow criteria of transformation and impact in order to scale up local preferences to the national level and make sure they affect policy outcomes. The theoretical framework is tested against the empirical background of the world’s largest participatory and deliberative experiment known to date, the National Public Policy Conferences in Brazil.> Download