The vision of the European Institute of Public Participation (EIPP) is better and more legitimate policy decisions, informed by the active participation of the public.
The idea for EIPP sprang from the dissatisfaction of a group of members of MOSAICO (the European Multi-disciplinary Association for Learning) in 2007 about the quality of democracy and political leadership in Europe (and, indeed, throughout the world). Could greater participation of the public in political processes lead to better, fairer, more sustainable decisions, and, if so, how could this best be achieved?
During 2008, the Partnership for Public Participation was formed to research experiences and results of public participation throughout the world, but particularly in three European countries of interest to the partners: Germany, Italy and United Kingdom. This led directly to the report Public Participation in Europe, which highlighted three key factors that need to be addressed for public participation to be effective:
- A clearly defined constitutional framework for public participation. Only through an explicit, shared understanding between politicians and citizens can confidence be developed and public participation realize its democratizing potential.
- A systematic approach to public participation methods to help organizers of public participation processes choose the most suitable and effective methods.
- Rigorous and challenging evaluation of public participation in practice to develop a culture of learning about participation and advance the systematization of participation methods.
Undertaking research into public participation activities, mainly, but not exclusively, in Europe. Examples of this include the research undertaken across Europe in 2008 as the basis for the Public Participation in Europe report, and a current project for the Bertelsmann Foundation carrying out a detailed analysis of participatory methods in Germany.
The key to understanding what works, when in public participation is rigorous evaluation, based not simply on feedback from the participants, but on a set of predefined extrinsic criteria such as: did it result in fairer, more sustainable, more legitimate decisions? EIPP has recently completed a major evaluation of BürgerForum Europa, a large-scale participatory process over eight months, which developed understanding of how German citizens view the future of Europe and involved politicians at the highest level (including German Chancellor, Angela Merkel).
EIPP is currently developing the European Evaluation Framework for Public Participation with partners across Europe and looking to test this with a range of live participation activities, including Participatory Budgeting in the UK.
Dissemination of What Works, When
EIPP seeks to disseminate the findings of its research and evidence-based evaluation through any appropriate channels such as
- reports, eg Public Participation in Europe
- newspaper articles, eg Rezepte gegen die Europamüdigkeit
- broadcast interviews, eg Quest'Europa s'ha da fare
- conferences and seminars, eg Measuring the Impact of Involvement, NHS Centre for Involvement
- Public Participation in Europe
- Making their Voices Heard and Listened To
- Die Konsultative. Mehr Demokratie durch Bürgerbeteiligung
The Consultative. More democracy through citizen participation. Patrizia Nanz and Claus Leggewie. Wagenbach Verlag 2016.