New Paper Democratising Economic Power: The Potential for Meaningful Participation in Economic Governance and Decision-Making

IDS Working Paper 535

Published on 30 March 2020

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Participation is the act of people engaging in decisions that impact their lives. It has been widely promoted in social, political and civic spheres. However, the question of participation in economic governance is underdeveloped.

This paper explores participation in economic decision-making – ranging from citizen engagement in economic policy, economic development, or the governance of economic institutions – through an analysis of 28 cases in 14 countries, from both the global South and the global North.

It asks what constitutes meaningful participation, in terms of how economic activity is organised and how economic governance is practiced, and what are the conditions that enable these alternative structures and practices? It identifies five conditions for participation in economic affairs, many of these familiar from participatory practice elsewhere: distributed authority; mobilisation; networks and coalitions; deliberation and democratised knowledge. The paper then discusses wider social and political implications of participation in economic governance, in terms of the relationship between the economy and society, and the relationship between economic and political forms of participation. Finally, three key participation challenges are explored: who is participating, how are power relations affecting participation, and whether participation can permeate the mainstream. The overall aim of this paper is to learn from existing and emergent practice in order to deepen knowledge on participation in economic governance, contributing both to public debate and future research.

Cite this publication

Thorpe, J. and Gaventa, J. (2020) ‘Democratising Economic Power: The Potential for Meaningful Participation in Economic Governance and Decision-Making’, IDS Working Paper 535, Brighton: IDS

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Image of Jodie Thorpe
Jodie Thorpe

Research Fellow, Cluster Leader

Image of John Gaventa
John Gaventa

Research Fellow and Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme

Craig Zelizer

Craig Zelizer

Dr. Craig Zelizer is the Founder of PCDN.global, which connects a global community of changemakers to the tools, community and opportunities to build careers of impact and scale change. He has strong experience in the development sector, academia and social entrepreneurship. From 2005 to 2016 he served as a professor in the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University (where he still teaches). He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including with USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others. Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University. Dr. Zelizer spent two years in Hungary as Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia. He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education.
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