Participatory Governance

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

Concept description

In the Oxford Handbook, Frank Fischer describes participatory governance as “a variant or subset of governance theory that puts emphasis on democratic engagement, in particular through deliberative practices.”

He writes:

“In academic circles, the concerns of participatory governance have rapidly become important topics in social and policy sciences. Moreover, during the past several decades participatory governance has made its way into the political practices of a significant spectrum of political organizations, both national and international. Generally advanced as a response to a “democratic deficit” characteristic of contemporary political systems, participatory governance has been embraced by major organizations such as the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, UN Habitat, and the European Union (EU); all have put money and effort into the development of participatory processes. Many of these initiatives have drawn their inspiration from the progressive projects of political parties in India, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and the UK. To this list one can add civil society organizations, such as Oxfam, Action Aid, and the International Budget project, actively disseminating information and promoting participatory practices.

“When local participatory governance is found to contribute to efficiency, firmly establishing the cause–effect relationships can be problematic. It is always possible that a positive association between efficiency and participation may only reflect a process of reverse causation – that is, community members had already chosen to participate in those projects which promised to be efficient. To know if participation has in fact contributed to efficient outcomes…”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Policy Instruments and Design (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101 Policy Analysis and Process.


Frank Fischer (2012), Participatory Governance: From Theory to Practice, Oxford Handbooks. September 2012, at, accessed 4 September 2018.

Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified 4 September 2018.

Image:, at, accessed 4 September 2018.