Participatory-deliberative processes and public policy agendas: Lessons for policy and practice

Adrian Bua*, Oliver Escobar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Participatory and deliberative processes have proliferated over recent decades in public administration. These seek to increase the effectiveness and democratic quality of policy making by involving citizens in policy. However, these have mainly operated at local levels of governance, and democratic theorists and practitioners have developed an ambition to scale these up in order to democratise higher tiers of government. This paper draws policy lessons from research on a 'multi-level' process that held a similar ambition. The Sustainable Communities Act sought to integrate the results of various locally organised citizen deliberations within the policy development processes of central UK government. In doing so, it aimed to democratise central government problem definition and agenda-setting processes. The paper distinguishes between achievements and failures explained by process design, and more fundamental obstacles to do with broader contextual factors. As such, it identifies lessons for the amelioration of design features, while recognising constraints that are often beyond the agency of local practitioners. The findings offer practical insights for policy workers and democratic reformers seeking to institutionalise participatory and deliberative innovations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-140
Number of pages15
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date24 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • democratic innovation
  • participatory democracy
  • deliberative democracy
  • institutional design
  • public policy
  • agenda setting


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