Geißel (2008) - Zur Evaluation demokratischer Innovationen – die lokale Ebene

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Geißel, Brigitte (2008): Zur Evaluation demokratischer Innovationen – die lokale Ebene. In: Heinelt, Hubert/Vetter, Angelika (Hg.): Lokale Politikforschung heute, Wiesbaden: 227-248


Based on a meta-analytical approach the study investigates how democratic innovations – direct democracy, co-governance, and deliberation – can serve as a “cure” for identified “malaises of democracy”. Evaluation reports concerning participatory projects of the above mentioned classes are analyzed against four major analytical criteria: legitimacy, effectiveness, citizen qualification, and social capital. The evidence shows that procedures of direct democracy have the capacity to improve the effectiveness of solving problems of collective social decision making as well as to raise the perceived legitimacy of political decisions. Procedures of co-governance on the other hand seem to improve the civic skills of the participants, and foster democratic virtues and social capital (especially bonding social capital). Similar effects are observed in the case of deliberative procedures.


After defining the different classes of democratic innovations (direct democracy as legally institutionalized referenda, petitions and alike, co-governance as procedures of “collaborative governance”, participatory budgeting and alike, deliberative procedures as “Planungszelle”, “Konsensus-Konferenzen” and alike), the criteria against which the success of these modes of political participation is measured are described and discussed as followed:

  1. Legitimacy as a meta-dimension consisting of four sub-dimensions: (1) Perceived legitimacy (of political representatives and the political order), (2) Input legitimacy (inclusiveness), (3) Throughput-legitimacy (democratic qualities of the participation process), and (4) deliberative quality (of the process)
  2. Effectiveness as a meta-dimension consisting of four sub-dimensions: (1) Problem-solving-capacity (of the procedure), (2) Influence on debates, (3) Influence on policies, (4) Speed of Decision-making
  3. Citizen Qualification as a meta-dimension consisting of two sub-dimensions: (1) Increase of political knowledge, (2) Raise of identification with democracy (attitudes) and improvement of civic skills
  4. Social capital as a meta-dimension consisting of two sub-dimensions: (1) Bonding social capital, (2) Binding social capital

Qualitative and quantitative evidence (as it is found in selected evaluation reports of an unmentioned number), concerning the main criteria and their sub-dimensions, is reviewed and aggregated through a method that is not discussed in detail.


The results of the meta-analytical review are summarized in table 3 (p. 243) of the article and correspond to the ones mentioned in the summary.