Associative Democracy: advisory councils in a multilevel setting
Sectorial and territorially based advisory councils are the most common of all existing participatory devices. However, the generalised perception that they perform in most cases basically a ritual role and their limited media visibility has resulted in an almost complete lack of research about their development and results. This scepticism and lack of rigorous knowledge does not entail that they are being abandoned. In fact, they continue to have a relevant role (sometimes substantive, others symbolic) at different policy levels and areas. In fact, some of the Spanish newly elected local corporations have plans to reinvigorate their performance.
Well known international research is quite limited (Fung, 2004) and the same thing happens with Spanish literature, limited quite often to the analysis of one single experience or a small set of them (Navarro, 1999; Font and Blanco, 2003). To bo beyond this limited evidence, the project will have two main objectives: 1) to establish a clear comparative mapping of the existence of these councils in Spain, going from the local level (municipalities above 200.000 inhabitants) to the national level in a set of policy areas. 2) To understand what makes a consultation council perform well (voice and relevance), in order to provide useful inputs for their potential redesign.
Methodologically, the project will incorporate quantitative and qualitative tools. To do the mapping we will start through an internet data-mining search. A second step will be an on-line survey to members of a sample of Councils at the local, regional and national level. The qualitative part will develop through a series of case studies. Each of them will develop through document search and interviews to diverse participants and organisers.
This project is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, R&D Fund (Reference: CSO2015-66026-R).