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Deepening D&D’s Impact by Connecting Politicians to Theorists through Practitioners

We recently came across an article that frames a key issue in our field so well that we had to share it. The piece is by Lucy Parry, a researcher with NCDD member org Participedia, and Wendy Russell of the Canberra Center for Deliberative Democracy, both of whom are contributors for The Policy Space blog. In it, they describe the gaps and similarities between D&D theorists and practitioners, and the power of their synergy. They propose that in order for our field to influence policy outcomes and ultimately help our democratic systems become more deliberative, we have to connect politicians and elected officials meaningfully to our field’s theoretical grounding, and that D&D practitioners might be the right bridge for that connection.
What do you think? How should D&D theorists and practitioners work together? How should they not? We encourage you to read the excerpt below from the Lucy’s great piece and read the full version here.


Bridging the Gap: why deliberative democracy needs theorists and practitioners to work together

…[O]ne of the obstacles for successful use of deliberative approaches is the challenge of bringing the normative ideals of deliberative democratic theory – what it should look like and what functions it should serve – to the reality of political decision-making contexts. This raises a potential ‘gap’ between deliberative academics and practitioners, given the constraints of translating normative theory into workable political reality….

In general, practitioners work at the coalface, adapting to political constraints and timeframes, and doing what works in these contexts. Researchers tend to stand back, describe how best practice should look, and critique attempts to achieve it. In bringing a critical eye they play an important function, but collaboration between theory and practice is clearly important…

In some ways, practitioners of deliberative democracy are uniquely placed at the interface between theory and policy worlds and can act as mediators between the two. On the one hand, they work within the constraints of policymaking, familiar with the day-to-day rigmarole. On the other, they have the most experience of real-life deliberative democracy: they see it, they do it. Practitioners know what deliberative processes can achieve, in empowering citizens and improving the quality and legitimacy of political decisions. They also know how deliberative approaches can fail.

It is arguably the case that despite the different work that theorists and practitioners do, they park their cars in the same garage; sharing a commitment to enhancing inclusiveness and public reasoning in political decision-making. What’s more, practitioners are uniquely placed to bridge a much wider gulf: between theorists and policymakers….

We encourage you to read the full original version by Lucy Parry and Wendy Russell of The Policy Space at www.thepolicyspace.com.au/2016/17/125-bridging-the-gap-why-deliberative-democracy-needs-theorists-and-practitioners-to-work-together.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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