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The Democracy Cube

In his 2006 article titled “Varieties of Participation in Complex Governance” (Public Administration Review, Vol. 66: 66-75), Professor Archon Fung of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government introduced a broad typology called The Democracy Cube, in which the first axis displays the authority and power of the participants in the process, the second axis shows who participates in the process, and the third axis reveals how decisions are made.

The first axis is similar to IAP2’s Spectrum of Public Participation typology, moving from individual education and communicative influence to advising or consulting, co-governing, and having direct authority. The second axis moves from the most exclusive to the most inclusive forms of participation. Participation by expert administrators, elected representatives, and professional stakeholders sits on one end of the axis; different forms of representative and non-representative groups of citizens sit on the other end. Finally, the third axis charts the least to the “most intense” forms of participation; beginning with listening as a spectator and moving to expressing preferences, developing preferences, aggregating preferences, deliberating and negotiating, and deploying expertise.

In other words, mechanisms of participation vary along three important dimensions: who participates, how participants communicate with one another and make decisions together, and how discussions are linked with policy or public action.

Please note:  The first two paragraphs of this resource are excerpted from AmericaSpeaks‘ report Assessing Public Participation in an Open Government Era: A Review of Federal Agency Plans (2011).  Archon’s article has been featured in the Resource Center for some time, but I felt this short description from the AmericaSpeaks publication might be helpful for those new to the Democracy Cube.

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