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Decision makers with a deliberative stance? The hidden world of public deliberation between ministers and their publics

Carolyn Hendriks, Australian National University

Tue 7 June 2016

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


In this seminar I will discuss a work-in-progress paper that I am currently co-authoring with Associate Professor Jennifer Lees Marshment, University of Auckland.

Much of the democratic burden in deliberative democracy rests on effective communication taking place between potentially affected publics and those empowered to make decisions. Yet remarkably little is known about the way contemporary decision makers receive and make collective sense of multiple forms of public input. In our paper we prise open this ‘black box’ by discussing ground breaking empirical findings on how senior political decision makers themselves understand the relationship between public input and their work. An analysis over 50 interviews with former ministers and state secretaries in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand finds that political leaders based at the federal or national level view public input as an integral component of their work. Decision makers place a high premium on personal interactions with the public, such as conversations with individual citizens, or one-one-one exchanges with affected groups. In these informal interactions, decision makers connect with everyday people, hear ‘real world’ stories and learn how issues affect people’s lives.  This represents a hidden world of public deliberation taking place between decision makers and their publics that has hitherto been hidden from debates in deliberative democracy. The paper considers what these findings imply for public deliberation, particularly the place of leaders and executive government in contemporary deliberative systems.

Please find here the paper.

About the speaker

Carolyn M. Hendriks is an Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. Her work examines democratic aspects of contemporary governance, particularly with respect to participation, deliberation, inclusion and representation. She has taught and published widely on democratic innovation, public deliberation, network governance and environmental politics. Carolyn is an appointed member of newDemocracy's Research Committee and sits on the editorial board of several international journals, including the European Journal of Political Research.

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