DO PARTICIPATORY POLICY PROPOSALS EVOLVE INTO FINAL POLICIES?

What do we know about the extent to which proposals coming from participatory processes have had an impact on the decision making of political authorities? Why many of them never evolve into actual policies?

One of the possibilities is that politicians and officials cherry-pick from amongst the proposals emerging from the participatory processes, adopting only those more favorable to their own interests. Also, these proposals may be extraordinarily diverse in aspects like their number (from one to hundreds), their degree of specificity (from paving a road to promote social justice), or the formality of the procedure to approve them (from voting to a simply collection of ideas within the minutes of a meeting). In other cases, the proposal may contradict previous decisions of the municipality or go beyond the boundaries of political competence of the local authority.

Additionally, there is a tendency to assume that a policy proposal has a dichotomous fate: adopted or not. However, there are a number of options that might be considered as part  of an adoption process: the immediate response by the organizing authority to the participatory process, the formal acceptance of the proposals by the local council, the appearance of the proposal in the department´s policy documentation and, finally, the actual implementation of the proposal. Also, many proposals are likely to suffer significant changes during the process of adoption because their formulation leaves plenty of room for incorporating changes that alter the intentions of the proposal or allow for partial adoption.

Therefore, our goal is to explain the relationship between the proposals coming out from a participatory process and the policy outcomes, identifying the different fates of these proposals and the potential factors that may account for why some of them are more successful than others. We suggest two basic types of explanations: contextual or policy-related. Contextual explanations are those that have an effect on any proposal that emerges from a given participatory process, and they could relate to the characteristics of the municipality or those of the specific participatory devices. Policy related explanations are those specific to each of the proposals such as, for instance, its cost or the degree of social polarization that it generates.

The goal is to analize a quite diverse set of policy proposals emerging from 40 different participatory processes. See more details here.

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