Παρασκευή, 18 Μαρτίου 2011

A PROCEDURAL MODEL FOR PUBLIC DELIBERATION

Anargyros A. Passas (1) , Theodore N. Tsekos (2)

A PROCEDURAL MODEL FOR PUBLIC DELIBERATION


A reviewed version of this paper was published in: Tambouris, E., Macintosh, A. (eds.) Electronic Participation, Proceedings of Ongoing Research, Trauner Verlag , Shriftenreihe Informatik, Band 31, 2009

(1) Associate Professor, Panteion University, Athens
(2) Assistant Professor, The Peloponnese Higher Institute of Technological Education

1. INTRODUCTION

The public participation concept is recently receiving increasing attention due to the augmenting scientific interest for the eParticipation field and its technological aspects [1]. However, through this approach emphasis is given to the technological facilitation, while the underlying concept of participation as a decision making and a policy development methodology is not adequately
discussed. Understanding such a composite framework seems to be a rather complicated endeavour as far as no dominant paradigm providing an integrated definition and circumscribing the multidimensional boundaries of the participation phenomenon has been yet developed. The deliberation analysis, from an ICT approach is located at the dialogic and interpretative corners of the Deetz's scheme while from a public policy approach it should be located at the critical and normative
corners [2]. This should explain the ambiguity and ambivalence of the existing descriptive and interpretative approaches in the field of e-Participation [3],[4]

Public participation can increase both the quality and the legitimacy of policy making. Policy quality may be enhanced through a multi-approach scientific expertise that can get incorporated in the policy outcomes by the means of an open and participative scientific dialogue on a given policy issue. Legitimacy, in its turn, can be improved by the way of a more extensive acceptance of the results of an inclusive deliberation on a controversial issue [5], [6], [7], [8] .



2. CRITICAL PARAMETERS OF PUBLIC DELIBERATION

Balancing expertise and democracy is a critical question of substantive participation [9]. Technical knowledge is necessary to elucidate each and every dimension of a composite public issue in order to ensure full comprehension of the problem, establish an effective spectrum of alternatives and allocate accordingly collective preferences. On the other hand democratic dialogue is essential for
constructing, differentiating and synthesizing collective preferences. Technical knowledge is based on in depth expertise, extensive research and a neutral approach, while democratic dialogue implies partisanship and potential antagonism between affected parties.

Participation requires effective deliberation. Most scholars and policy practitioners agree that participation and deliberation could become valuable rejuvenating tools not just for policy making but broadly for representative democracy, serving as an improved framework of contemporary political organization. To this end, deliberation techniques need to overcome obstacles impeaching
the effective incorporation of diverse collective and individual interests, to ensure comparable levels of field expertise, communicative capacities and styles [10] , to develop common dialogic grounds under the forms of multidimensional consensuses and rationality [11] and to guarantee input and output legitimacy, quality of deliberation (throughput) and insertion into the public space
(deliberative transparency and accountability)[12].

A critical dimension of the deliberative process concerns the equilibrium between stakeholders with and without a structured partisan view, namely on the one hand well structured groups with concrete interests at stake and on the other hand loose groups as 'lay citizens' and / or scientific field experts.
These two distinct forms of “deliberative governance” produce differentiated levels of legitimation and technical capacity that must be bridged in order to lead to a well balanced policy. [13] Deliberation is not a purely technical procedure. It's an array of complex interactions characterised by conflicting orientations and political and informational inequalities [14]. As a result demanding procedural requirements have to be met in order to ensure qualitative deliberative results [15].
One can, therefore, conclude that the procedural technicalities of the deliberative process may become a determinant factor of the overall quality of public participation. Procedural technicalities can be generally termed as "technologies of legitimation" aiming at maintaining and enhancing legitimacy in a pluralistic policy arena [16], [17].

3. OUTLINE OF A PROCEDURAL MODEL FOR PUBLIC DELIBERATION

3.1. THE OVERALL MODEL
Public deliberation aims at bridging conflicting perceptions of public issues at both social and scientific levels through a well structured deliberative procedure (
A workable and effective procedural model for public deliberation should be based on specific and detailed answers to a series of questions related to the critical aspects of participative dialogue. These questions which derive from relevant methodological variables are classified in six distinct areas that correspond to the phases of public deliberation but also, more widely, to the main steps of policy making [18], [19].


3.2. A CHECKLIST FOR THE ANALYSIS OF THE DELIBERATIVE PROCESS

1. Issue Emergence

1.1 Which actor [20] on what criteria and through what kind of procedures inscribes a given policy issue in the institutional political – administrative agenda?
1.2 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures assesses a potential policy problem or opportunity?
1.3 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures assesses the
collective players [21],[22] involved in a given public policy field whose views should be recorded?
1.3.1 This step precedes or follows the identification of potential impact areas of a given policy?
1.3.2 At what stage of the process each and every collective player is invited to participate in a deliberative process?
1.4 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures defines the priority and extent of the necessary participation of every potential collective player in the deliberation process?
1.5 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures identifies the areas of potential impact of a given policy?
1.5.1 This step precedes or follows the identification of relevant collective players?

2. Issue Structuring

2.1 In what way the necessary documentation for problem structuring [23] is produced?
2.1.1 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures determines the
variables to be explored?
2.1.2 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures gathers the necessary data and by which method the accuracy of such data is endorsed?
2.2 In what way problem documentative material could be communicated to all interested parties?
2.3 How can be ensured that all interested parties can have full understanding of the available documentative material?
2.4 How can be ensured that all interested parties have the opportunity to compare the documentative material against reliable alternative documentation?

3. Issue analysis and alternatives formulation

3.1 How standardized the documentation, analysis and formulation of alternative proposals have to be? Who manages this standardization?
3.1.1 Is a single standardized method required for the documentation, analysis and formulation of alternatives?
3.1.2 Is compliance to the standards a prerequisite for acceptance of proposals?
3.1.3 Which actor and through what kind of procedures certifies the compliance of the
submitted proposals with the standards?
3.1.4 Can different standardized methods of documentation and analysis be accepted (diversity of eligible methods)?
3.1.5 Do interested parties have their say in shaping the standards?
3.1.6 Does the choice of a specific method require justification?
3.1.7 Is quantitative documentation required and if yes under what standards?
3.1.8 Is documented reference to implementation procedures (regulatory, administrative etc) required for each alternative?
3.1.9 Is documented reference to the existing administrative implementation capacities required for each alternative?
3.1.10 Is documented reference to the policy field complexity and collective strategies required for each alternative?
3.2 To what extent additional or modified proposals are accepted during the deliberative process?
3.2.1. Who will decide on this issue?
3.2.2. How the timing for additions and / or modifications will be decided?
3.2.3. How the process for additions and / or modifications will be defined?

4. Deliberation

4.1 Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures formulates the deliberation process?
4.1.1 Is the deliberation process divided into preliminary and main phase?
4.1.2 Which collective players, on what criteria and at what stage should be invited to the deliberation process?
4.1.3. In what ways fragmented and dispersed social interests should be represented (e.g. through citizens panels, discussion groups, public opinion surveys etc.)
4.1.4. Who and on what criteria decides how long the deliberation process, and in more detail every stage of it, should last?
4.2 What means are used for deliberation:
4.2.1. Face to face contacts: what institutional framework, what physical location, what frequency?
4.2.2 Written dialogue through the Internet: what web page, how much time?
4.3 How widespread access to the materials and conclusions of the deliberation is ensured?
4.3.1 At what stage and how is the general public informed about the deliberation process and its findings?
4.3.2 Is the general public offered the opportunity to comment on the consultation results and by what means?

5. Decision

5.1. What will be the final output of the deliberation process?
5.1.1. Should it result in a single proposal selection?
5.1.1.1. Who makes the proposal selection?
5.1.1.2. Is it approved by consensus, unanimity or majority?
5.1.1.3. Are the minority proposals disclosed, and if so how?
5.1.2. Are alternative proposals prioritized
5.1.2.1. Who makes such ranking and on what criteria?
5.1.3. Are all alternatives released without prioritization?
5.1.3.1. If so, who prepares the finalized version of each proposal?
5.2. How is it proved that the regulating body (-ies) and / or the implementing agency (-ies) took into account the findings, evidence and conclusions of the deliberative process?

6. Monitoring, Evaluation and Review

6.1. Does the final policy decision provide automatic review mechanisms such as :
6.1.1. Ex ante specified expiry date of a given regulation (“sunset clause”)
6.1.2. Implementation plan with final completion date
6.1.3. Contractual agreement (e.g. between the regulator, the community or a supervising body and the implementing agency) over specific and measurable deliverables and results.
6.2. Does the final decision provide with mechanisms for quantitative monitoring and evaluation of the effective impacts of a given policy?
6.2.1. Does it provide for regular assessment periods during implementation (on going
evaluation) or after the completion of an implementation phase (ex post evaluation)?
6.2.2. Does it endow with metrics for quantitative monitoring and evaluation?
6.2.3. Does it comprise tasks for data collection and processing?
6.3. In case of a review of the policy decision will the deliberative process be reactivated?
6.3.1. Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures launches a reviewing deliberation?
6.3.2. Which of the initial participants is going to be invited to be part of the reviewing deliberation?
6.3.3. Can additional participants be invited? Who and over what criteria decides on
that?
6.3.4. What will be the final deliverables of the reviewing deliberation?
6.3.5. What kind of evidence is required to prove that such deliverables are taken into account by policy-makers?

4. THREE IMPLEMENTATION SCENARIOS

The variables composing the above-mentioned deliberative framework can evolve according to two alternative hypotheses. The first hypothesis regards a result-oriented politico-administrative machinery [24] with an open and inclusive culture. The second hypothesis refers to a rule oriented [25] apparatus with an introvert, bureaucratic culture.
Therefore the above setting can be configured through three alternative scenarios:
• a “high expectations” scenario,
• a “low expectations” scenario and
• an “intermediate” one
The first scenario will be an attempt to envisage the full application of the model in an entirely favourable environment. The second represents a simulation of implementation in a negative environment, regarding both cultural and procedural aspects. Finally, the third scenario reflects an optimization effort under relatively unfavorable conditions again.

The following table presents a comparison of the three scenarios applied on several selected variables of the model


Α. ISSUE EMERGENCE PHASE

VARIABLES
Which actor, on what criteria and through what kind of procedures inscribes a given policy issue in the institutional political – administrative agenda?

“HIGH EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO

The public agency that is mainly responsible for a given policy field, after preliminary formal consultation with all involved public agencies and all registered representative organizations and social partners within the scope of the policy intervention

“LOW EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO

The public agency that is mainly responsible for a given policy field, without prior consultation

“INTERMEDIATE” SCENARIO

The public agency that is mainly responsible for a given policy field after preliminary informal consultation with selected key collective players, both public and private, within a given policy field.


B. ISSUE STRUCTURING PHASE

VARIABLES

Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures determines the variables to be explored?

“HIGH EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO

The participants in the preliminary consultation.

LOW EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO

The variables can be expanded through proposals formulated during the main deliberation phase.

The public agency that is mainly responsible for a given policy field unilaterally

“INTERMEDIATE” SCENARIO

The mainly responsible public agency after informal consultation with selected collective players


C. DELIBERATION PHASE

VARIABLES

Which actor on what criteria and through what kind of procedures formulates the deliberation process?

“HIGH EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO

General conditions are defined by primary legislation. Specific conditions may result from specific sectoral procedure codes or by agreement during the preliminary deliberation

“LOW EXPECTATIONS” SCENARIO
Conditions are unilaterally defined by the mainly responsible agency in compliance with mandatory rules, if such exist.

“INTERMEDIATE” SCENARIO
Conditions are defined by the mainly responsible agency in compliance with mandatory rules, if such exist, and agreed with partners during preliminary phase phase.




5. CONCLUSIONS

The proposed framework aims to reflect the high complexity and conflictuality of a participative decision making system on public policy issues. The three scenarios’ approach permits to adapt the model to real-life situations. More precisely, the formulation of an “intermediate” scenario seeks to avoid a double risk. Firstly, to stick at a rigid option with high demanding technical, informational and procedural aspects, requiring, in consequence, uncommon cultural and organizational maturity
and outstanding collective skills. Secondly, in order to avoid such extremely rigorous conditions, to adhere to a minimal approach reduced to ineffective incrementalism that will prove incapable to improve deficient policy-making.

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