THE CHERRY-PICKING PROJECT KEEPS ON TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD

The 2nd International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) took place last week in Milan. This conference, organized by Éupolis Lombardia, was a meeting point for public policies scientists to share their work, their innovations and their knowledge production, while creating an encompassing network in policy studies.

The Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC) brought to Milan one of its most important projects in the last years: Cherry-picking: the results of participatory processes. This project illustrates one of the existing hypotheses regarding the impact of participatory processes on public policies: politicians can “pick” the proposals that fit better with their previous values or that are more attractive, easier or less costly out of all them. Therefore, the main objective of this project, financed by the National Research Plan of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity, is to analyze the effects of participatory processes developed by municipal administrations on the public decision making. Additionally, it focuses on how to measure the intensity of the participatory processes.

4 papers of the Cherry-picking project were presented in the ICPP:

– When expertise matters in participatory governance: how technical knowledge is incorporated in participatory processes (Carlos Rico Motos, IESA-CSIC; Graham Smith, University of Westminster; Laurence Bherer, University of Montreal; and Joan Font, IESA-CSIC): Significant claims are made that the incorporation of participatory processes in local political decision-making signals the emergence of new modes of democratic governance that represent a shift in the division of political power between citizens and civil society organizations on one hand and public officials on the other. One element of these claims is the argument that participation leads to the ‘democratization of expertise’ in the sense that citizens and civil society organizations are able to oversee (and thus challenge) the application of technical knowledge by policy officials in the policy process. There is, however, little systematic understanding of how different participatory processes deal with technical imperatives in practice: are expert criteria incorporated at a specific moment that is transparent to participants; or in a diffuse way that renders accountability problematic? This paper analyses a number of participatory exercises developed in the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid in 2007-2011 and their resultant policy proposals to answer a series of related questions: How does the design of participatory exercises affect the potential for democratic oversight of expertise? To what extent does the application of technical criteria explain the fate of policy proposals?

The more participated, the better? Effects of participation on policy outputs (Fabiola Mota, Autonomous University of Madrid; Carol Galais, University of Montreal; and Pau Alarcón, IESA-CSIC): because citizens’ participation in political decision-making processes is often considered a quality criterion per se, we lack empirical studies confirming or disconfirming this assumption. This study aims to find and provide empirical evidence to support the argument that the degree/intensity of participation produces differences with regard resulting policies. With this goal, we first start reviewing the literature on the alleged effects of participatory processes for putting forward some hypotheses regarding how participation makes an improvement in public policy output. In fact, our main hypothesis is that the more participated, the “better” (more plural, inclusive, responsive and accountable) are the resulting policies. In order to test so, we develop some indicators to verify the effects of the intensity of participation on the qualities of policies. Later on we present the comparative research strategy adopted for the Spanish case as well as the data collection and case selection strategies. Lastly, we discuss the main findings of some preliminary statistical analyses and conclude with a short assessment of the contribution made by this research to the study field of participatory policy.

– Explaining the different fate of participatory policy proposals (Joan Font, IESA-CSIC; Graham Smith, University of Westminster; Carol Galais, University of Montreal; and Pau Alarcón, IESA-CSIC): One of the aspects of participatory processes that have rarely been the subject of systematic comparison is the fate of their outputs: their policy proposals. We know very little about the factors that affect whether these proposals are accepted, rejected or transformed. The goal of this paper is twofold. First, we offer a theoretical model that aims to explain which contextual or policy related factors affect the likelihood of proposals being implemented. Second, we explain the research design used to test these ideas on a diverse set of 611 policy proposals and show through multilevel analysis some of the variables that play a significant explanatory role. Some process related variables are important. Our main finding is that proposals coming out from strategic planning or from less deliberative processes have less chance of being adopted. Economic as well as political reasons (being a more challenging proposal or having less support among administrative and elected local personnel) are also important.

Beyond the participatory process: Consequences in the interaction between civil society and local authorities (Manuel Jiménez, Pablo de Olavide University; Patricia García, IESA-CSIC; and José Luis Fernández, IESA-CSIC): This work focuses on the potential consequences of institutional participatory processes in the interaction between civil society and the local government. Our aim is to offer a proposal for the analysis and the operationalization of such effects in the relation of local authorities with the society: do public participatory processes produce any change as they promise from a normative point of view? First, we specified and cluster the potential changes (both structural and cultural) in the interaction and offer an analytical proposal for the analysis under three hypotheses (the hypothesis of the coral reef effect, the civil society empowerment and the shift power relations). Second, we show first (and partial) results of an ongoing research carried out in three Spanish regions and based on six case-studies where, through the use of semi-structured interviews with different actors, we observe actual patterns of change in the interaction between civil society and local authorities.


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