Participatory governance brings new actors into incremental decision-making processes; citizens deliberate over and vote on the allocation of public resources and the use of state authority. The adoption of participatory governance is often based on the perception that representative democracy is unable, on its own, to improve the quality of state performance, educate and empower citizens, and make reasonably good use of scarce public resources. As scholars turn their attention to questions about the role and nature of participatory governance, there is a growing body of evidence that co-governance processes are producing some of the desired outcomes.
Participatory institutions produce change that is incremental in nature—they are specifically designed to incorporate citizens into local-level decision-making processes, which significantly constrains their potential impact. Revolutionary changes that will dramatically alter the political or social environment in a short period of time are not likely to be produced. Many of the scholars and policymakers present at the workshop argued that these institutions are an important part of contemporary democratic governance, but there was an explicit understanding that we must do a better job of showing how these institutions are reshaping the state, civil society, democratic life and social well-being.