THE RESULTS OF PARTICIPATORY PROCESSES: PUBLIC POLICIES AND GOVERNMENT-SOCIETY RELATIONSHIPS
Participatory processes developed at the local level have received considerable attention. However, one of their potential main effects, their impact on public policies, has been the object of scant systematic research. Which proposals posed by citizens achieve recognition of the authorities and become policies and which ones are abandoned? What factors influence this?
These questions give sense to the title of our research project, “Cherry-picking”, which illustrates one of the existing hypotheses: 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. Aditionally, we want to know if the intensity of the participatory processes implies a significant difference concerning to some aspects of the implementation of public policies.
Another research question we deal with is the idea that participatory processes can also transform the pattern of relationships between public administration and civil society, or even produce changes within civil society and the social capital of communities. Given that these changes are only likely to appear in a small part of the existing participatory processes, we explore the conditions in which some of these changes happen, as well as their main contents.
To accomplish this task we benefit from our previous research, the MECPALO project (Spanish Research National Plan, 2010-12), which has analyzed the organizational characteristics of these processes, their development, causes and effects on participants (see the main results here). The database generated by this project -about 500 participatory experiences developed in the three Spanish regions of Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid- sets a starting sampling frame from which to select a diverse group of participatory processes to study.