Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Oliver Escobar

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes


I am a Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh (Politics and IR), and Co-Director of What Works Scotland –an ESRC/Scottish Government funded program to connect research, policy and practice and improve public services and policy innovation. My contribution to WWS builds on my previous research on collaborative governance and participatory policy making. I lead the WWS workstream on Community Engagement and Capacity Building, and co-lead on Partnerships and Governance.

I received my PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh, where I held a Principal’s Career Development Scholarship. My research subject was participatory policy making, with a focus on the everyday work of public engagement practitioners in the context of local democracy.

My first funded research project (2002-2004, European Social Fund and Galician Government) was on the policy making process of public intervention against poverty and social exclusion in Galicia. Over the years I have enjoyed learning as a facilitator and analyst in various policy arenas locally, nationally and internationally. 

Between 2008-2010 I worked at the Dialogue Research Project (Queen Margaret University) helping to set up QMU’s Centre for Dialogue. I am a Public Engagement Fellow of Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement) since 2009, where I am involved in developing  courses, forums and activities in the areas of dialogue and deliberation, public engagement, and policy practice.

Between 2010-2013 I was the Project Officer of the Public Policy Network, where I am still the convener of the Citizen Participation Network. I am also a trained participation practitioner (International Association for Public Participation).

I was the Project Director for the ‘Citizens' Juries about Onshore Windfarms’ research project, funded by ClimateXChange. I now lead on the Participatory Budgeting strand of What Works Scotland and I am a member of the Scottish Government PB Working Group.

From November 2013, I have worked on Mixed Methods research and teaching with Prof. Andrew Thompson using data from a large study of the European Commission. I recently concluded the first part of an international study of 'People who make a difference in neighbourhoods' using Q Methodology with colleagues in England, Netherlands and Denmark.

I contributed to develop So Say Scotland (a hub for participatory politics and democratic innovation), as well as the year-long deliberative process led by the Electoral Reform Society: Democracy Max -An Inquiry into the Future of Scottish Democracy. In November 2014, I was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Democratic Audit UK.

I also carry out participatory and deliberative projects for the Academy of Government. For instance, I designed and facilitated participatory forums for the COSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, and deliberative processes for Voluntary Action Scotland / Third Sector Interfaces, and ClimateXChange.


  • Policy making and policy workers
  • Participation and deliberation in policy making
  • Participatory and deliberative democracy
  • Collaborative governance (e.g. partnerships)
  • Public service reform
  • Democratic innovations (i.e. mini-publics, participatory budgeting)
  • Political communication (i.e. dialogue and deliberation)
  • Facilitation, mediation and consensus building 
  • Community/Public engagement practice and practitioners
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Science & society
  • Emotions in politics and policy

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