Civic participation in local government: European norms of deliberation and their relevance to the implementation of public consultations in Germany and Poland

  • Funding source: Funded by the German-Polish-Science-Foundation
  • Project partner: University of Warsaw (Institute of Sociology, Centre for Deliberation)
  • Duration: May 2019 until April 2020

Deliberation as a concept has been developed as an ideal-typical approach to renew public communication and participation in the political and social sciences and to enhance the legitimacy of political institutions and their decisions. How values and norms pertinent to the model of deliberation (e.g., rationality, interactivity, and openness) get incorporated into political practice due to legal requirements or local design decisions in order to increase the legitimacy of political decisions has been researched only scarcely.

Thus, the aim of the common project of researchers from the HHU and the University of Warsaw is to analyze the relevance of values and norms associated to the concept of deliberation in practices of public consultations by local administrations in Germany and Poland. We analyze how these practices compare to one another and through which factors they are shaped. For the purpose of this study, we will focus on public consultations as an institutionalized channel of communication between local governments and members of local communities.

We will begin the project with the analysis of the most significant EU documents as well as national, regional, and local legal requirements regarding public consultations in order to capture the formal and legal context of deliberation in public consultations. Followed by an investigation into the conduct of public consultations by representatives of German and Polish municipalities. The core element of the project will consist of an experiment involving municipal clerks carrying out tasks regarding the planning and conducting of public consultations with the use of the inDialogue software (open license, non-commercial software).

As a result, we will identify the routinely used procedures of public consultations in municipalities and compare them with the model of deliberative public consultations as described in the literature and identified in the course of our document analysis. We aim to explain institutional and other factors that can be responsible for differences in the clerks’ perceptions and performance in the two countries. Finally, we will develop a set of guidelines for how IT can better support the administrative processes of public consultations and implement them exemplary in the projects own inDialogue software.