chapter  9
When democratic innovations let the people decide: an evaluation of co-governance experiments
ByJULIEN TALPIN
Pages 23

Introduction Can the people govern? Are the people sufficiently competent and responsible to make wise collective decisions shaping public policies? In what circumstances can individuals effectively share a part of the political power of which they are supposed to be the legitimate holders? Co-governance innovations across the globe try precisely to offer institutional answers to these crucial questions that have animated democratic theory debates for centuries. While deliberative and participatory experiments have mushroomed in the last two decades, in both Western democracies and in the global South (for good reviews see Fung and Wright 2003; Smith 2005, 2009), only a few of them grant a direct decisionmaking power to lay citizens. The most prominent of these co-governance innovations will be presented and analyzed here. In a co-governance institution, citizens and public authorities share political power. They can be defined, following Smith (2005: 56-7), by three main features, distinguishing them from other deliberative and participatory innovations: (1) they are granted part of the decision-making authority, (2) they also have a degree of agenda setting power, and, therefore, a form of autonomy from the politicians who created them, and finally (3) they are ongoing forms of engagement, meeting regularly over months or even years, rather than snapshot events, like deliberative polls, citizens’ juries or consensus conferences (Fishkin et al. 2002; Smith and Wales 2000; Goodin and Niemeyer 2003; Sintomer 2007). Co-governance innovations also differ from direct legislation, in the sense that power is shared between citizens and elected officials, and require an institutionalized and iterated public deliberation before taking the decision.