Making citizen participation work: The challenging search for new forms of local democracy in The Netherlands

  • Geurtz C
  • van de Wijdeven T
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Abstract

Abstract Governance theory shows that governments no longer operate as actors that take unilateral decisions but instead have to share power and influence with various other actors. There is also a large body of literature that shows a growing discontent with (local) democracy. These two trends lead various local governments to either reaffirm representative democracy, or to introduce elements of direct participatory democracy. In practice the combination of the two ? representative and direct participatory democracy ? can be problematic. This paper describes the experiences of Hoogeveen, a medium-sized municipality in the Netherlands with a far-reaching programme of direct participatory democracy. In Hoogeveen, local residents can decide on yearly budgets for their neighbourhood and become involved in the long-term planning of its development. The Hoogeveen case shows that direct participatory and representative democracy can be balanced with the help of (1) connecting arrangements, (2) professional connectors and (3) steady political support.
Abstract Governance theory shows that governments no longer operate as actors that take unilateral decisions but instead have to share power and influence with various other actors. There is also a large body of literature that shows a growing discontent with (local) democracy. These two trends lead various local governments to either reaffirm representative democracy, or to introduce elements of direct participatory democracy. In practice the combination of the two ? representative and direct participatory democracy ? can be problematic. This paper describes the experiences of Hoogeveen, a medium-sized municipality in the Netherlands with a far-reaching programme of direct participatory democracy. In Hoogeveen, local residents can decide on yearly budgets for their neighbourhood and become involved in the long-term planning of its development. The Hoogeveen case shows that direct participatory and representative democracy can be balanced with the help of (1) connecting arrangements, (2) professional connectors and (3) steady political support.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Local governance
  • citizen participation
  • direct democracy
  • participatory budgeting
  • representative democracy

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Authors

  • Casper Geurtz

  • Ted van de Wijdeven

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