The development of public engagement as a core institutional role for parliaments

A research paper co-authored by International Parliament Engagement Network members Cristina Leston-Bandeira (University of Leeds, UK) and Sven T. Siefken (Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences, Germany) has been published in The Journal of Legislative Studies.

Public engagement has become a noticeable activity for parliaments across the world. However, there is a lack of understanding of its role despite considerable developments in scholarly work on public engagement in the sciences and on deliberative and participatory democracy by social scientists. 

The development of public engagement as a core institutional role for parliaments provides an overall contextual understanding of the role of public engagement performed by parliaments today. It draws from the authors’ extensive research in this area, as well as from their practice working closely with practitioners.

The article provides a framework to understand the significance of parliamentary public engagement and to evaluate its effectiveness. It explains how parliamentary public engagement has emerged because of a representational shift in who is doing the representing in parliament and in what is represented, following key societal changes.

Leston-Bandeira and Siefken define parliamentary public engagement, showing the importance of differentiating between the activity, its effects and broader democratic ideals. They identify information and education as the types of engagement activity most developed by parliaments, with much still to do in consultation and participation activities. 

Engaging the public in political decision-making is a key prerequisite for modern democratic governance – and parliaments are in a unique position to carry out this important task. 

Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Sven T. Siefken

The authors conclude the article with a discussion of seven key challenges in developing and implementing effective institutional parliamentary public engagement practices.

Cristina Leston-Bandeira said:

“We wrote this article because public engagement is often talked about, but meaning very different things to different people.

“We thought it was important to unpack the concept of public engagement, to show that it refers to different types of activities, but also to differentiate between the activity and its potential effect.

“We also thought it was important to reflect about why public engagement has become such an important part of 21st century politics; and consequently why it matters so much for parliaments around the world.”

The development of public engagement as a core institutional role for parliaments by Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Sven T. Siefken was published via open access in The Journal of Legislative Studies on 18 July 2023.

About the authors

Cristina Leston-Bandeira is Chair of IPEN and a Professor of Politics in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. She has conducted research on Parliaments for nearly 30 years. Her research focuses on the relationship between Parliament and citizens, particularly public and digital engagement.

Sven T. Siefken is a political scientist, political advisor and management consultant. He is Professor of Political Science at the German Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Parliamentary Research (IParl) in Berlin, Germany. His current work investigates coalition politics, parliamentary committees, parliaments in the pandemic and the future of democratic representation. 


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Article published: 27 September 2023