• Associational democracy: accountable autonomy, participatory bias or vicious circle? (AssoDem)

    Sectorial and territorially based advisory councils are the most common of all existing participatory devices. However, the generalised perception that they perform in most cases basically a ritual role and their more limited media visibility has resulted in an almost complete lack of research about their development and results. This scepticism and lack of rigorous knowledge does not entail that they are being abandoned. In fact, they continue to have a relevant role (sometimes substantive, others symbolic) at different policy levels and areas and some of the Spanish newly elected local corporations have plans to reinvigorate their performance.

    Well known international research is quite limited (Fung, 2004) and the same thing happens with Spanish literature, limited quite often to the analysis of one single experience or a small set of them (Navarro, 1999; Sarasa and Guiu; 2001; Font and Blanco, 2003).

    The project had two main objects: 1) to establish a clear comparative mapping of the existence of these councils, going from the Spanish local level (municipalities above 200.000 inhabitants) in a set of policy areas. 2) To understand what makes a consultation council work (perform well from several points of view) in order to provide useful inputs for their potential redesign.

    Methodologically, the project incorporated quantitative and qualitative tools. To do the mapping we will start through an internet data-mining search, since most of these councils will be quite well documented in their institutional web sites. A second step will be an on-line survey that captures additional organizational features, as well as important indicators of its performance. The qualitative part developed through a series of case studies (10), through document search and interviews to diverse participants and organisers.


    Project Sheet