Coupling citizens and elites in deliberative systems: The role of institutional design

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    A significant shortcoming in contemporary deliberative systems is that citizens are disconnected from various elite sites of public deliberation. This article explores the concept of 'coupling' as a means to better link citizens and elites in deliberative systems. The notion of 'designed coupling' is developed to describe institutional mechanisms for linking otherwise disconnected deliberative sites. To consider whether it is possible and indeed desirable to use institutional design to couple different sites in a deliberative system, the article draws on insights from a case study in which a mini-public was formally integrated into a legislative committee. The empirical study finds that it is not only feasible to couple mini-publics to legislative committees, but when combined, the democratic and deliberative capacity of both institutions can be strengthened. To be effective, 'designed coupling' requires more than establishing institutional connections; it also requires that actors to step outside their comfort zone to build new relationships and engage in new communicative spaces with different sets of ideas, actors and rules. This can be facilitated by institutional design, but it also requires leaders and champions who are well-placed to encourage actors to think differently.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-60
    JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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