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Democratic Innovations in Deliberative Systems – The Case of the Estonian Citizens’ Assembly Process

This 29-page case study, Democratic Innovations in Deliberative Systems- The Case of the Estonian Citizens’ Assembly Process (2015) by Magnus E. Jonsson and published in Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 11: Iss. 1. This study focuses on the ‘Estonian Citizens’ Assembly Process’ (ECA), which sought to operationalize a systemic approach to deliberative democracy and how this could be used to evaluate democratic innovations. 

From the Abstract

With the proliferation and application of democratic innovations around the world, the empirical study of deliberative and participatory processes has shifted from small-scale environments and experiments to real-life political processes on a large scale. With this shift, there is also a need to explore new theoretical approaches in order to understand current developments. Instead of analyzing democratic innovations in isolation, the recent ‘systemic turn’ in the field encourages us to broaden our perspective and evaluate democratic innovations as complementary parts of a political system.

This paper will draw upon a qualitative case study, based on interview and supported by survey data, of the ‘Estonian Citizens’ Assembly Process’ (ECA), in order to operationalize the systemic approach to deliberative democracy and illustrate how this can be applied to an analysis of democratic innovations.

The ECA spanned more than a year (November 2012 to April 2014) and covered three political arenas: the public sphere, democratic innovations and representative institutions. The systemic analysis highlights the deliberative strengths and weaknesses of arenas and institutions, and illuminates how various arenas and democratic innovations did and did not complement one another in the creation of a deliberative process. The systemic analysis offers two possible interpretations of the ECA. The more affirmative interpretation is it constituted a deliberative system, as it did perform the three main functions fulfilled by different arenas and institutions. The more critical interpretation is that the ECA partly failed to be a deliberative system, due to social domination and decoupling of institutions

Download the case study from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public DeliberationJournal of Public Deliberation
Spearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol11/iss1/art7

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