Heard on France Inter this morning a report about how Segolene Royal (candidate for next year’s presidential elections in France) is trying to promote and use the concept of participatory democracy in her region Poitou-Charentes, and will most probably lay the foundations for it to occur at a national level.
Now, what is participatory democracy? Yet another nice hype-laden expression? A rhetorical find? Maybe or maybe not. In fact, it all depends on how it is really implemented, as for all nice concepts that hold wonderful promises.
Wikipedia provides the following definition:
“Participatory democracy is a process emphasizing the broad involvement of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems. While etymological roots imply that all governments deserving the name “democracy” would rely on the participation of their citizens (the Greek demos and kratos combine to suggest that “the people rule”), traditional representative democracies tend to limit citizen participation to voting, leaving the main work of governance to a professional political elite. Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a political group to make meaningful contributions to decisionmaking, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities.”
How does Segolene Royal do that? Well, she has set up a programme in her region called ‘budget participatif des lycées’, whereby students, parents, teachers, school administrators and region officials meet and discuss on a regular basis the various ways of using the budget allocated to schools and arrive at forms of consensus. These meetings are complemented by online forums for continuous dialogues.
The underlying principle of the programme is that end-users are the true experts (in a collective way of course) and that each euro must be used in an efficient manner.
It will be interesting to follow how the experiment unfolds as there are definitely some interesting ideas in it.
Alack! When will our local decision-makers ever try similar experiments instead of carrying on with their stupid antics?