Contracting out public participation to external consultants: Observations on epistemic justice

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Abstract

Recent years have seen a rapidly growing trend of outsourcing elements of public participation from public institutions to external citizen engagement consultants (CECs). This study examined this phenomenon using the theoretical framework of epistemic in/justice. It is based on a sequential deductive-inductive analysis of interviews with public administrators, private CECs, and citizens, all involved in participative initiatives in localities across Israel. While previous research on public participation has focused primarily on the dyadic relationship between governing institutions and selected beneficiaries of their services, the findings of the present study enable offering some observations about what happens when this dyad turns into a triad. A critical review of the findings suggests that while outsourcing public participation is often presented using discourses of progress and inclusion, in fact, it may preserve, or even deepen, epistemic injustices, especially for citizens belonging to vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

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