There is a widespread feeling of discontent with the functioning of modern representative democracies. In the Netherlands, trust in democracy is still relatively high, but citizens increasingly feel that politicians do not listen to them and demand more meaningful influence on public policymaking. Many see democratic innovations as a potential solution. Democratic innovations include a range of forms: plebiscitary or vote-oriented instruments (such as corrective referendums or digital citizens’ initiatives), deliberative instruments (such as citizens’ assemblies or discussion platforms), as well as hybrid combinations of these plebiscitary and deliberative forms, such as the recent example in Ireland of a citizens’ assembly followed by a referendum.
Surprisingly little comparative knowledge exists about the design and effects of these democratic innovations, especially the hybrid ones. Most importantly, it is not clear whether these innovations actually increase democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in a country like the Netherlands with a “polder” or consensus model of governing.
The REDRESS project aims to address these knowledge gaps by systematically investigating hybrid democratic innovations. Through a process of design thinking, involving a broad coalition of stakeholders, REDRESS fleshes out which hybrid democratic innovations are most promising and how these innovations can be most effectively combined with representative democracy. The consortium brings together multiple sources of crucial expertise: leading academic researchers, field-knowledgeable practitioners, international experts, and specialists in knowledge dissemination.