We live in an era of political disenchantment and trust in representative institutions is waning. Representative institutions seem unable to provide satisfactory answers to many of the challenges our societies face today. In light of this, citizen participation is often resorted to as it constitutes a potential avenue to revitalize representative democracy. Participatory initiatives are, amongst others, believed to enhance political support, legitimacy, effectiveness, and efficiency. However, the road to a form of governance that embodies the merits of representative democracy and the assumed benefits of participatory governance are paved with uncertainties. First, involving citizens in (local) governance has consequences for the existing institutions, elected officials, civil servants, civil society, and the general public. What are the consequences for their roles, tasks, and perceptions, and how can participatory processes be embedded in (local) democracy? Second, new participatory processes, including deliberative, electronic, and hybrid combinations of direct and deliberative arrangements, also raise questions about the design, management, and sustainability of these arrangements. And, third, although we see a growing variety of forms of citizen participation, the question remains what the actual effects of these processes are. Are there also negative effects? And to what extent do such processes live up to their promise of revitalizing democracy?
This panel welcomes empirical and theoretical contributions that investigate these issues. We welcome a variety of approaches, such as case studies, comparative analyses of participation in different contexts and across different levels (local/regional/(sub)national/international), evaluative research, normative approaches, and research with a more explorative character.