Deliberative and participatory democracy seem to be pretty similar. And they are, in ways: both are democratic systems that give citizens a role in governance.

In both deliberative and participatory democracies, citizens play the starring role. They are empowered to let their voice be heard and, in different ways, weigh in on the way their community is governed.

And yet, they are not the same, and they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.
In short, we can state that participatory democracy focuses on empowering citizens to take action, whereas a deliberative system focuses on reaching consensus through discussion, debate and information.

The combination of both comes with its own challenges. The 3 desirable criteria of direct democracy (participation, deliberation and equality) are pretty difficult to combine. In cases of mass participation, deliberation becomes hard to organize, and equality cannot be guaranteed.

Hope this cleared it up for you! Are you hungry for more democracy or civic tech news? Head to our blog! Want to set up a participation project in your community? Get in touch with one of our experts.

This article is a part of our “what’s the difference?” series. Browse through the others here:

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