Deliberative Governance: Political Fad or a Vision of Empowerment?
Concepts such as participation, citizen engagement, community involvement and deliberative processes have become buzz words for progressive policymaking. Strategy documents, policy papers and the speeches of politicians are littered with these phrases, often used interchangeably and frequently offered as little more than rhetoric. Those in positions of power, and so better positioned to influence policy, more often than not see such approaches as recipes for the more efficient delivery of policy and services and as a way of gaining kudos with the disillusioned voter. To others they offer little more than an opportunity to reinforce the interests of the powerful. These concepts, amongst others, are in many ways the mechanics of governance, and when debating what governance means, what it ought to be, and how it ought to occur we need to understand what we might call the micro-dynamics of these concepts in implementation. Most people would argue that more inclusive governance and broader participation is a good thing but the processes and activities of governance, how people are included, how their voices are heard,
how debate is engendered, shape on a practical and often local level what form governance will take and how effective it will be. Clearly when engagement is sought between people, communities of practice, interest groups and different scales engagement itself becomes increasingly political and risks becoming a technical hostage (or solution) of power and influence.