Deliberative Innovations in Central and Eastern Europe – a panacea for democracy in crisis? (DelibDemCEE), 2022-2027

DelibDemCEE project aims to explore the role of mini-publics, one of the innovative methods of implementing deliberative democracy, in Central Eastern European countries (CEE) and to examine whether they can make democracies more resilient and citizens more engaged. The study intends to address several research questions such as the problems of representative democracy that deliberative innovations aim to address in the region and the impact of mini-publics on public policies and policymaking processes.

The project is divided into three work packages, examining the onset, type, and design of deliberative mini-publics (such as citizens’ assemblies) in CEE, the impact of deliberative mini-publics on public policy and political decision-making processes, and citizens’ perceptions and public responses to mini-publics. The researchers will use a variety of methods such as surveys, pre-and post-surveys among participants, focus groups with organizers, local authorities and citizens, field experiments, and interviews with local decision-makers to examine the different ways in which deliberative innovations interact with democracy in crisis.

The project is crucial for two main reasons. First, while new forms of citizens’ engagement are well-researched in Western European countries, Australia, and North America, there is still a lack of knowledge from the CEE region, even though deliberative democracy innovations are becoming popular in the region. Second, the challenges that democracies face today, including problems with representative democracy, increasing polarization, the rise of populism, nationalism, and illiberalism, require more studies on citizens’ engagement and political participation as well as perception regarding ideal decision-making processes and new forms of citizens’ engagement in CEE.

The researchers expect to find that state or non-state actors engage in democratic innovations in CEE to complement and account for weaknesses of representative democracy, particularly at the local level. Deliberative innovations are expected to improve the legitimacy of policy decisions in CEE countries, thus building trust in democratic institutions and having positive consequences on social and political inequalities through the greater inclusion and empowerment of citizens.

This research project is financed by National Science Centre (NCN) in Poland within SONATA Bis program (UMO-2021/42/E/HS5/00155).

Team members: Magni Szymaniak-Arnesen (PhD student), Weronika Kędzia (PhD student)