Public Information for a Democratic Society: Instilling Public Trust Through Greater Collaboration with Citizens

Public Information for a Democratic Society: Instilling Public Trust Through Greater Collaboration with Citizens

Christa Daryl Slaton (Auburn University, USA) and Jeremy L. Arthur (Auburn University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-130-8.ch006
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Abstract

The question of “how wide to open the window” to hear citizen feedback and let them influence local politics is highly topical. The authors provide an informative introduction to the prerequisites for collaboration between citizens and public administration. They claim that the re-engineering focus on citizen participation remains too rooted in old paradigmatic thinking. In order to truly engage citizens, one needs to break out of the confines of 18th century thought and explore how participatory democratic theory can provide the foundation for 21st century political design and alter our concepts of democratic governance. The authors focus on two different projects that have demonstrated how administrators and other government officials can engage citizens in agenda-setting, addressing complex policy issues, and facilitating implementation of policies. These models position citizens as “owners” of government, not as “clients” or even partners in making and implementing policies through choices. One method, called Televote, is a form of scientific polling that elicits informed and considered opinions from randomly selected respondents. The other method, a version of face-to-face meetings, was employed in Uniontown, Alabama to engage citizens on an ongoing basis to establish citizen agendas, develop policies, and implement programs. Finally, the authors reflect how electronic town meetings can be used to help build community and reinvigorate democracy.

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