Democratic innovation always sparks a lot of debate in the Netherlands. In this essay, Frank Hendriks addresses three common reservations about democratic innovation in the Netherlands – (i) ‘Things aren’t that bad, are they?’; (ii) ‘renewal can also bring destruction’; (iii) ‘this always backfires’ – when discussing three key arguments in favor of democratic innovation: (a) the persistent problems with responsiveness, listening and implementation of politics in particular; (b) the problematic combination of administrative rush and stagnation in the polder; (c) the rise of new forms of collaboration that can contribute to collective strength.
Upon closer examination, there are significant reasons to invest in democratic innovation in the Netherlands, while also approaching it realistically, selectively, and in combination. It is unrealistic to expect that a single instrument, such as a randomly selected citizens’ assembly or a corrective referendum, can meet the multifaceted needs. Combined innovations aligned with the representative system have theoretical advantages that deserve further practical testing.
Smart democratic innovation is an investment in public learning and not an attack on representative democracy, but rather an investment in sharpening it.