Citizen participation in governance: expectation vs experience

A research article published in Sustainable Earth explores the gap between people's expectation of their participation in governance and what they experience. Using the City of Greater Geraldton, Western Australia as a case study, the authors demonstrate how deliberative democracy initiatives can be implemented to close this gap.

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In their article published in Sustainable Earth, Rob Weymouth and Janette Hartz-Karp of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute summarise the scope and importance of their research: 

"Achieving widespread sustainability will require high levels of trust in the good intentions and competency of governments by their people. Working against this is the good evidence that a gap exists between what sort of participation relationship people want with their governments and the sort of relationship that governments are delivering. This gap hampers the cooperation between citizens and government so necessary in a world currently grappling with the wicked problem of moving toward sustainability. This study established the generalisability of this disconnect outside the US and conducted an intervention through a case study to try and close this gap. Our paper showed that an intervention that delivered a partnership relationship between citizens and government during the allocation of a public budget was able to significantly close the gap. We discuss the practical designs and techniques that contributed to this type of participation relationship and suggest a link between dissatisfaction with participation relationships in government and the crippling loss of trust in governments worldwide. We finish by highlighting research directions that will exploit the advances made in this work." 

 This research emphasises the need for people and government to unite to solve the world's grand challenges. In order for this to happen effectively and sustainably, a bond of trust must be extended in both directions. Only in reducing this chasm of distrust can both the governed and the governors be empowered to overcome significant sustainability issues such as climate change. A first step towards this would be to increase the number and scale of deliberative democracy initiatives.

Chris McEntee

Senior Journal Development Editor, BMC

Chris is a Senior Journal Development Editor for environmental and sustainability sciences. In this role he leads on the development of open access journals in this subject area. As a member of Springer Nature’s Grand Challenges Advisory Board, he helps drive the publisher’s response to the biggest challenges faced by society, through innovative research and practice. Chris has an MSci in Marine Biology from the University of Southampton and has worked at Springer Nature since 2015, both experiences which have drawn upon and reinforced his passion for research with real-world impact.

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