Understanding the Impact of Citizen Engagement on Policy, Institutions & Society

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Submitted by Tessa DUNLOP on

Understanding the Impact of Citizen Engagement on Policy, Institutions & Society

A JRC study is exploring impact of citizen engagement (CE) to better understand how participatory processes influence and transform policymaking and society.

Understanding and measuring impact in citizen engagement is complex. The Joint Research Centre is collaborating with a team of experts to comprehensively map the various impacts of citizen engagement (CE) across the spheres of participants, institutions and society. By 2025, the study will synthesise policy-relevant research on impact in CE, understand and address research gaps in the field, and provide support to policymakers and administrators with practical tools to assess and achieve intended impact (and for others who want to know more about citizen engagement impact). Whilst research into CE impacts is growing (including on effects of e.g. citizens’ assemblies, mini-publics and other initiatives on policymaking), this remains an area worthy of deeper exploration and of greater exposure. 

To tackle this complex topic, the team undertook research from different angles. These include an ontological mapping of impact to demonstrate how various factors and their interplay could dynamically promote various types of impact, as well as a review of methodological frameworks and approaches to impact measurement and assessment.

The study looks into five thematic areas, including: 1) Changes to policy and policymaking as a consequence of citizen engagement; 2) Contextual and situational factors that determine impact; 3) Linking micro and macro processes; 4) The role of practitioners in facilitating impact; and 5) Repercussions of CE processes within EU institutions.

Initial results point to a breadth of reported transformative changes, including not only on direct participants, but also such affecting politics and policymaking, institutional infrastructures, connectedness between citizens and institutions, and a more resilient democratic system. Many of these impacts are indirect and long-term. The novelty of the study is demonstrating how the outputs of CE enable, inspire and support transformation, pinpointing to the pre- and post-conditions necessary for such transformation to endure.

Please contact Tessa.dunlop@ec.europa.eu for more information. 

About the Author
Tessa Dunlop works as a policy analyst at the Joint Research Centre's Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy in Ispra, Italy.