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The Professional Dynamics of the Participatory Turn

Democracy
Local Government
Political Participation
Alice Mazeaud
Université de La Rochelle
Alice Mazeaud
Université de La Rochelle
magali nonjon
Université d'avignon

Abstract

Despite an increasing amount of studies on democratic innovations, the conditions under which participatory processes are implemented are not well known yet. In fact, most researches aim to evaluate the quality of the processes and to understand why and how some democratic mechanisms, named “innovations”, are implemented and produced the expected effects. So, the political factor is overvalued to explain the growing interest of public authorities for participatory mechanisms and the variety of participatory processes. In our communication, we propose to switch the focus from the participatory innovations to the professionals of participation (facilitators, consultants, public servants), the ones who conceive, who legitimatize, who facilitate these innovations, and who earn money from this activity. Such an approach, based on ethnographic study of professional spaces and on prosopographical data, aims to highlight the professional dynamics, collective and individuals, of the “participatory turn”. Thus, the production and the evolutions of a public offer of citizen participation can't be understood without referring to the constitution of a “market of participation”. On the one hand, we can show that the main characteristic of those professionals is that they need to demonstrate that participatory mechanisms are a necessity; authentifying the existence of a social demand of participation is a condition of their professional survival. On the other hand, we show that the internal dynamics of the market of participation (emergence of public servants specialized on public participation, entrance of consultant on public communication in the market of participation etc...) are an important factor to understand the variability (or not) of the participatory processes and the dual dynamic of standardization and of innovation. This communication is focused on the French case but an on-going international comparative research (mainly with Quebec) may provide some complementary findings to question the national variations of the participatory injunction.