Centre de recherche sur les politiques et le développement social


Thirty Years Later: The Participatory Turn's Mirages and Realities

Thursday 19th and Friday 20th February, 2015 - CPDS International Conference

The conference aims to dissect the main consequences of the repeated practice of public participation. Beyond the injunction to participation and the generally accepted idea that public participation is "good" for democracy, what are its effects on the midterm? In particular, we will reflect on different interpretations of participation depending on the contexts and the spaces of participation; the effects of the practice of participation on citizenship and the effects on public policy.

Presentation of the exhibition Citoyens – Hier, aujourd’hui, demain de l’Écomusée du Fier Monde during the Conference

University of Montreal, Carrefour des arts et des sciences, 3150 Jean-Brillant st., Room C-3061


Conference Theme

Since more than thirty years, citizen participation is at the center of public life. Praised by technocrats and bureaucrats, adopted by local, national and international political actors, implemented by citizens and studied by analysts, the secrets of citizen participation seems to all be uncovered. However, participation is only rarely been understood over time. This conference proposes to unpack three ‘hidden’ dimensions of participation, understood as both a norm for public action and a well-established social practice: 1) the different interpretations given to the concept and practices of participation, given the contexts and spaces of participatory practices (which also varied over time); 2) the effects of participation on citizenship, in its relationship to institutions and its practices, and; 3) the effects of participation on public action, on the mechanisms invented over time to make compatible two often paradoxical reforms: the participatory injunction and state reforms.


Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 1pm to 7pm
Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-3061

1pm-3pm - Panel 1 – A participatory injunction: changing meanings across contexts and spaces

Once a radical democratic project, citizen participation is now an instrument of public policy that is diffused around the world, across contexts, as a panacea for policy efficiency, legitimacy, and so on. Citizen participation has become an injunction: for the governance of groups, businesses and local governments, but also in policy making, development initiatives and financial and social investment programs. What citizen participation means under such an injunction? From an ideal to its practices, how have its multiple meanings been developed, transformed, reinterpreted? How do context and culture matter in the way citizen participation is reinterpreted in its practices?


Opening Remarks

Francesca Polletta, University of California, Irvine
Enthusiasm for Citizen Participation: A Historical Look at Changing Views of Participatory Decision Making

Nina Eliasoph, University of Southern California
Top- Down Processes vs Local Knowledge: Designing Contextualized Participatory Practices

Ernesto Ganuza, Spanish Research Council (IESA/CSIC)
From Best Practices to Local Contexts: Conflicts and Paradox in the Rhetoric of Participation

Discussant: Pascale Dufour, University of Montreal

Coffee Break- 3pm-3:30pm : Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-2081/2083


Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-3061

3:30pm-5:30pm – Panel 2 - Participation, Citizenship and Inequalities: Meaning(s), Practices and Expectations

The multiplication of participatory mechanisms and processes has, however, a generally overlooked impact on citizenship, its meanings, practices and its relationship to the state, groups and individuals. This panel questions the nature of this link between participation and citizenship.


Héloïse Nez, Université François-Rabelais, Tours
Trajectories of politicization and professionalization through participation

Françoise Montambeault, University of Montreal
Constructing Citizenship in Participatory Budgeting: Variations among Citizens’ Trajectories

Dominique Leydet, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Marginalized Groups and Inequalities in Participation and Deliberation

Discussant: Deena White, University of Montreal

From 5:30pm - Cocktail and exhibition : Citoyen – Hier, aujourd’hui et demain
Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-2081/2083


Friday, February 20, 2015 – 9am to 5pm
Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-3061

9am-11am – Panel 3 - Recent Trends in Public Reforms: Citizens versus Expert Led Decision-Making Process?

The multiplication of participatory mechanisms in the past 30 years have raised expectations about the democratization of public administration and public decision-making processes. Yet, many doubts have emerged with regards to the actual effects of citizen participation, which are instrumentalized, depoliticized, and which do not always account for administrative cultures and local politics. Participatory practices are fragmented, are often experimental and punctual, which prevents their diffusion. This panel looks at the participatory turn from a public policy perspective, looking at state reforms which, paradoxically, have often complexified and closed public decision making processes, and at the public policy production contexts.


Tina Nabatchi, Syracuse University
Public Participation in State and Federal Government in the United States

François-Pierre Gauvin, McMaster University
Bringing the Public into Evidence-Informed Policy-Making: Lessons from the Health Sector

Mario Gauthier, Political Science, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Collaborative Planning and Reflexive Practices among Urban Planners and Public Participation Professionals in Quebec

Discussant: Francis Garon, Glendon College, York University

Coffee-Break - 11am-11:30am: Carrefour des arts et des sciences, Room C-2081/2083


End of the Public Conference - Followed by a closed seminar for participants only!


Conference organized in collaboration with:

Centre de recherche sur les politiques et le développement social (CPDS)

Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (CÉRIUM)

Carrefour des arts et des sciences

Écomusée du Fier Monde