Research Interests

My research examines outcomes from participatory governance innovations in developed democracies, looking specifically at the implementation of participatory budgeting, a process in which a government sets aside part of a public budget for the community to allocate, in the US and the UK. My dissertation systematically examines the case for participatory budgeting as a strategy of democratic renewal. It starts with an institutional argument articulating the micro-foundations for PB institutions as a democratic institutional intervention and expands in scope and method to a systematic qualitative assessment of different implementations of PB. Finally, it undertakes a multi-dimensional investigation of the observable residues of PB in the wider community. Along the way, I help to translate the normative claims of democratic theorists into empirically tractable individual-level explanations of mechanisms by which participatory budgeting matters.

Building on broader insights from new institutional theories of politics, social movement scholarship, and public administration, I develop a theory articulating the informational mechanisms through which participatory reforms may result in transformations of patterns of local political participation and preference articulation. I test this theory with a two-part multi-method research design. Extended bservation of four PB sites in the US and UK along with around 100 interviews with participants and staff allow for process tracing to test for the operation of expected mechanisms while comparative analysis of a wide range of community-level outcomes across paired PB/non-PB cases test for substantive democratic outcomes.

With the support of a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Award, I was able to develop new analyses across three areas of potential community impact: community collaboration, political discourse, and voter turnout. I designed and implemented a survey of community organizations across communities in the US and UK to identify changes in collaborative activity, developed a supervised machine learning approach to measuring changes in local political culture through analysis of local political reporting and discussion, and conducted a dynamic panel analysis of trends in voter turnout in matched PB and non-PB communities.

 

Earlier research, now published in the journal Political Studies, emerged from my MA essay at UW and examined the relationship between local civic participation and expressions of government legitimacy. In this project, I make explicit a theoretical basis for this relationship, paying particular attention to the conceptual construction of legitimacy, and build indices for civic participation and legitimating attitudes. I use MLE methods to test empirical implications using detailed individual level data on local participation, attitudes, and values from the UK Citizenship Survey. This research supports claims of a relationship between participation and legitimacy, even when outcomes are perceived negatively, and that this effect is specific to procedural and fairness components of legitimacy rather than simple 'trust' in government.

 

 

Research Keywords

  • Participatory governance
  • Comparative democratic institutions
  • Civic engagement
  • Political deliberation
  • Social science methodology
  • Computational social science

 

Published work

"Variations of Institutional Design for Empowered Deliberation", with John Gastil, in Journal of Public Deliberation.

"Civic Participation and Democratic Legitimacy" in Political Studies. Data and code available here.