Outsourcing local democracy? Evidence for and implications of the commercialisation of community engagement in Australian local government.

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Political Science, 2019
Issue Date:
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Participatory governance practices are enjoying popularity, not least in local government. Councils are encouraging communities to be involved in local decision-making on a multitude of issues. This popularity is driven by legislative environments that require local governments to undertake some of these processes, and also by communities and practitioners—parties that derive income from participatory governance. An industry is emerging: one characterised by the market imperatives of demand and supply, with frameworks, strategies and processes, staff, training courses and conferences. This industry warrants investigation so its impacts upon local democracy can be understood. Following a theorisation of local democracy and community engagement, the paper describes the community engagement industry, presenting evidence about council activities, providers and professional associations to establish that the commercialisation of engagement is a significant phenomenon in Australian local government. It then discusses the possible risks to local governance and local democracy.
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