Research goals and methods

Research questions

What role does participatory governance play in times of crisis and austerity? Have the mechanisms of participation and collaboration initiated in the years preceding the crisis strengthened, weakened or remain unchanged? Have they been reformulated and in what way? What new forms of citizen participation emerge from the “bottom”? How does the relationship between the government and citizens evolve in this context?

Research goals

1. To analyze how different types of local actors interpret the crisis and the challenges it poses with regard to local governance and citizen engagement.

2. To compare how participatory governance practices evolve in different types of cities.

3. To analyze the role of participatory governance at a time of economic austerity, social unrest and political crisis like the present.

4. To identify and analyze new forms of social participation from the “bottom”. Understanding the challenges they pose to formal participation mechanisms – driven from the “top” by institutions.

5. Determining the importance of factors such as institutional frameworks, the political leaning of local governments and participatory traditions . Foreseeing future developments in practices of participatory governance.

6. To evaluate the potential of participatory governance as an instrument for the management of socio-political conflict and to identify factors improving its performance in this regard.

7. Adopting innovative methodological approaches in the field of study of participatory urban governance, in order to contribute to a systematic and rigorous study of this phenomenon.

Research methods

This research is based on a comparative analysis of six case studies: 4 cities in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Lleida and San Sebastián) and 2 cities in the UK (Cardiff and Leicester). The largest number of cases in Spain responds to the primary focus of this research on this country. In selecting the Spanish cases, we have taken into account the following criteria: regional diversity, political leaning of local governments and participatory traditions. The British cases have been selected by regional diversity.

Case studies are being analyzed on the basis of 3 main methodological options:

1. The structuring of fieldwork into two periods of analysis (first half of 2013 and the first half of 2015), in order to observe the evolution of the phenomenon under study in recent years.

2. The distinction between two levels of analysis for each case: the city (case study) and a particular subject area (embedded-case study) in each city that allows us to look deeper into the management of sociopolitical conflict under austerity (vacant urban spaces in Madrid, housing evictions in Barcelona, basic social needs in Lleida and San Sebastián, community services in Cardiff, housing and homelessness in Leicester).

3. Triangulation of three main data collection techniques: document analysis, semi-structured interviews with various actors (social activists, local authorities and public employees), and questionnaires made to the same profiles using the Q-methodology.