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Organizers of online partizipation are individuals, groups of people or organizations who initiate, monitor and complete online partizipation processes. In general, organizers of online participation processes have an interest in promoting civic involvement or at least consultation for various reasons, e.g. to get information about an issue, to increase public support, legitimation and acceptance, or to regain citizens' trust. Organizers usually are also held responsible for all four phases of the process. Organizers might be citizens' initiatives or companies, but in the context of online participation in decision making processes organizers mostly refer to civil service organizations, public administration and local policy makers.


Theories concerning organizers of online participation exist in the field of political science and organization studies:

First, elected representatives as organizers of online participation processes are in the ambigous position that they are addressees as well as gate keepers of public participation: as ultimate decision makers in representative bodies such as parliaments and councils, they decide about the implementation and the actual impact of online participation. On the other hand, increasing public participation via Internet might influence the allocation of responsibilities and challenge the power structures between citizens, administration, and representatives. Therefore, it can be assumed that the acceptance of such participation processes amongst political representatives depends on their individual perception of their own role in relation to the citizens’ role in representative democracy.

Organizational theories of institutions underline that changes, such as implementing and using new forms of online-participation, challenge public administrations and their institutionalized structures and logics of action. While the Weberian ideal of public organizations that are characterized by bureaucratic (e.g., hierarchical and formal) as well as legalistic (rule-bound) structures, participation processes are open processes and outcomes of online participation are difficult to anticipate. Furthermore public organizations are characterized by several successive reforms (e.g., New Public Management, New Public Governance; cf. Kuhlmann et al. (2008)) that have lead to an increasingly hybrid context of public administration focussing on differenct ideals and public values (see for instance Emery/Giauque 2014). Therefore officials in civil service organizations are confronted with changes resulting from the application of online participation. Thus, the historically grown institutional context of public administrations as frequent organizers of online-participation processes influences process success or failure (cf. Chadwick 2011)). However, studies show that institutional learning and change processes in the complex and hybrid context of public administration are often limited in its scope and effect (see for example Fountain 2011 or Kornberger et al. 2017.

Online participation in municipalities

Empirical analyses by Wilker (2018) reveal that the overall perception of online participation amongst local councillors is rather positive - although they are slightly more sceptical than towards "traditional" forms of public participation. Nonetheless, the representatives doubt that online participation helps mobilizing new groups of citizens to participate. Furthermore, more binding stages of participation are perceived by them with more reluctance. Beyond, councillors who believe that their own voters participate online have significantly more positive attitudes. In contrast, other factors such as age, internet usage, experiences with online participation, party affiliation or the perception of citizens have merely an effect.

Malte Steinbach, in his dissertation project, investigates the diffusion of online-participation in public organizations with a focus on the public administrations of municipalities. One of his studies focuses on the e-particiaption innovation process in three German municipalities concentrating on the individual and organizational strategies for dealing with institutional complexity. An ongoing project will analyse how individual civil servants' value positions (or role identities) related to different administrative paradigms influence their (intention to) use online-participation tools at work.

Regarding the employees' competencies in Municipalities which make use of internet-based participatory budgets, Diekmann outlines which skills are necessary to tackle new challenges in the field of online participation. In particular, project management skills (cf. Hunnius/Schuppan (2013)) as well as specific attitudes are needed to implement and apply online-participation processes including openness, empathy as well as persuasive power. In contrast, formal qualifications seem to be less important.

Online participation in universities

The use of online participation in decision making processes at a university faculty is examined by Steinbach, Diekmann and Süß. They show that the use of online participation in public organizations does not necessarily lead to an institutionlization of participatory decision-making logics. By adding new online-participation mechanisms to the usual structure of decision-making that was solely based on representative decision-making in the faculty council, a friction occured between existing forms of representative democracy and new more direct forms of participation introduced by online participation. They come to the conclusion that substantial changes in the decision-making context have not yet emerged.


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Pages in category "Organizers"

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