We are in the midst of a transformation of democracy that involves hundreds of thousands of new channels of citizen involvement in government, often outside of
the more visible politics of electoral representation.
My work investigates how and when these democratic innovations reshape political representation, promote accountability, and affect the planning and delivery of public policies. Specific questions that I address include: what are some of the most promising innovations? What drives such innovations: why do some but not all political actors champion them? How do these new participatory spaces transform citizen engagement? How do innovations impact public policies and pre-existing political structures? When do local conditions promote/hinder the adoption and impact of democratic innovations? What designs respond better to specific local conditions?
In sum, I study what works, how it works and when.
1) What works?
The existing literature on democratic innovations uses labels (e.g., participatory budgeting, citizens' assembly) that group families of innovations that are heterogeneous. This variety of the unit of analysis makes it particularly complicated to investigate these policy programs. My research agenda goes beyond these labels by conceiving democratic innovations as fuzzy sets of common elements (lego blocks). Answering the "what works?" research question requires mapping the variety of democratic innovations and constructing more nuanced measures of what works beyond survival, participation and customer satisfaction.
2) How and when?
Differently from the majority of the existing literature on democratic innovations that employs exclusively case studies, I use a multi-method approach that employs case studies in the theory generation stage, and large data and experimental analysis in the testing stage. This approach allows to isolate the mechanisms that drive the diffusion and impact of democratic innovations from confounders and local conditions.
I draw evidence mostly from urban, state and organization level governance innovations. Due to the unique availability of data the majority of my case studies and field work has been conducted in Brazil, but I have also worked, as consultant, evaluator or organizer, on various cases in the US (e.g., Deliberative Polls in New Haven, Participatory Budgeting in NYC), Italy (Democratic Party's Deliberative Referendum 2012), Cameroon (Participatory Budgeting in Yaoundé 2012), Canada (Citizens' Assembly in Vancouver 2014-2015) and now the UK (Sheffield and Southampton Citizens' Assembly 2015-2016).