There has, since the end of the 1980s, been a growing interest in western democracies for formally involving citizens in various local planning activities through network governance. The overarching goal has been to increase efficiency in local planning. Equally, it has also been accompanied by an underlying idea of enhancing public participation and mobilising the citizens, thereby strengthening local democracy. Even though much is written about these initiatives, the actual democratic effects of these activities have been notably overlooked in the literature. Both among scholars, as well as officials (i.e. civil servants and politicians), there seem to be a considerable uncertainty on how to appraise these initiatives, and there is a demand for criteria and tools for democratically appraising both the input and the output of network governance. The central question raised in this article is: How can we assess the democratic effects of formal network mobilisation? The article will present a tentative framework deriving criteria from both traditional democratic theory, as well as new theories on democratic governance and collaborative planning, which can be deployed for empirical studies. The criteria are based on norms concerning: public access, public deliberation, adaptivness, accountability, and the development of political identities and capabilities.
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European Group of Public Administration 2006, 2006