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Effects of stakeholder consultations on inputs, processes and outcomes of executive policymaking

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CONSULTATIONEFFECTS (Effects of stakeholder consultations on inputs, processes and outcomes of executive policymaking)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-09-30

Consultations with stakeholders (citizens and interest organizations) are frequently used by executive bureaucracies to design policies and formulate legislative proposals across political systems. Consultations constitute a direct communication link between decision-makers and affected actors, and represent an important channel through which feedback about the feasibility of policy measures, the legitimacy of adopted policies and the level of stakeholders’ support for their implementation is received by policymakers. Executive bureaucracies such as national ministries, regulatory agencies and the European Commission employ a variety of consultation practices (i.e. public consultations, online surveys, public hearings, stakeholder workshops, expert groups, advisory committees) to engage stakeholders in the design and formulation of policy proposals. However, the scholarship intensely debates the extent to which consultations deliver the promised ‘democratic goods’, ameliorate existing biases in interest representation, increase the openness and inclusiveness of bureaucratic policymaking, and improve evidence-based decision-making. Because of their non-binding, advisory nature, consultations are criticised for being a ‘mere plebiscite’, a ‘window-dressing’ exercise organised to legitimise bureaucratic decision-making and policy choices. Yet, consultations are costly and require substantial administrative and manpower resource to organise and conduct, for which reasons scholars argue that policymakers have strong incentives to maximise their use and stakeholders’ input in the formulation of public policies. At the same time, stakeholder consultations significantly increase the amount of information policymakers must process within a limited amount of time, a fact which oftentimes leads to information overload and decision-making inefficiencies.
Despite their near ubiquitous use across modern democracies and levels of government, and the legitimising rhetoric accompanying them, there is currently no systematic, empirical analysis assessing the theoretical assumption that stakeholders’ participation in policymaking via consultations improves policymaking and results in better outcomes and more legitimate governance. The scholarship lacks a systematic, cross-national, comparative large-n analysis examining the effects of stakeholder consultations on the plurality and informational quality of policy input received by policymakers, the efficiency and legitimacy of the policy process, and the quality and legitimacy of policy outputs and outcomes.
Four overarching research questions guide the project: To what extent and under what conditions do stakeholder consultations improve bureaucratic policymaking processes and outcomes, across policy areas and systems of governance? When and how do stakeholder consultations improve the democratic quality of policymaking by increasing the plurality of policy inputs and the efficiency and legitimacy of policy processes and outcomes? Under what conditions do consultations increase the plurality and informational quality of stakeholders’ policy input in policymaking? What constitutes an optimal stakeholder consultation design that simultaneously enhances public legitimacy, accountability and representativeness of bureaucratic policymaking, as well as its policy efficiency and effectiveness?
"Publications:
Adriana Bunea. (2020) “Understanding the European Commission’s use of politicisation in the negotiation of interinstitutional agreements.” Journal of European Public Policy. 27(3): 439-459.
Raimondas Ibenskas and Adriana Bunea (2020) “Legislators, organizations and ties: under- tanding interest group recognition in the European Parliament.” European Journal of Political Research (Online first: https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12412)
Adriana Bunea. “Stakeholder consultations.” In Phil Harris et. al (eds.) The Palgrave Encyclopaedia of Interest Groups, Lobbying and public Affairs. Palgrave.

Presentations of research at: The PAIRDEM mini-conference ‘Party-Interest Group Relationships in Contemporary Democracies’, UiO, May 2019; The Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Research group seminar. November 2019; The workshop on ‘Bureaucrats and Politics’, at the Norwegian Business School BI. November 2019; The Hertie School of Governance, MA course on ""Social media lab: How should the EU regulate platforms as part of the Digital Services Act?”; the EPSA conference, June 20-22, 2019, Belfast, UK; ECPR conference, September 4-7th 2019, Wroclaw, Poland; APSA conference, August 28th - September 1st 2019, Washington, D.C. US; APSA online conference, September 2020; Webinar entitled ""Consulting civil society in times of crisis"", June 24th 2020; Third Annual conference on Regulatory Scrutiny in the EU organise by the European Commission’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board. Brussels, Belgium. September 19th, 2019; Third Workshop of the Regional Hub platform of the Committee of Regions. Brussels, Belgium. October 23rd, 2019. Presentation title ‘Promises and Pitfalls of Stakeholder Consultations in the EU’. The PI was invited to advise on the design of the RegHub Evaluation Report and participate in the RegHub evaluation interviews. (https://cor.europa.eu/en/engage/Documents/RegHub/RegHub_evaluation_report.pdf)"
The project breaks new ground in the scientific study of stakeholder consultations and modern bureaucracies. Conceptually, the project innovates by proposing a new conceptualisation of consultation designs as a political institution similar to electoral systems. This recognises their representative weight in democratic governance and establishes a new research agenda. Theoretically, the project pioneers the argument that consultations constitute an institution resting at the core of the democratisation process of 21st century modern bureaucracies. This institution has crucial effects on who participates and which interests get represented in executive policymaking. Similar to how political elites design and reform electoral systems to strengthen their electoral base and political power, bureaucracies design consultations to build a reputation that strengthens their institutional autonomy and power. Methodologically, the project breaks new ground by employing an ambitious data collection strategy that allows the construction of an unprecedented comparative dataset that will significantly enhance our knowledge of how European integration affects the democratisation of national bureaucracies.