The University of Southampton

PAIR6006 Innovations in Democratic Governance

Module Overview

In line with the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy, individuals are treated on their relevant merits and abilities and are given equal opportunities within the module, School and University. The aim of the policy is to ensure that no prospective student or current student should receive any less favourable treatment on any grounds which are not relevant to academic ability and attainment. Every effort is made to ensure that disabled students are aware of and assisted in making use of the support provided by the University; to ensure access to lectures, classes learning materials; and to ensure that where necessary appropriate variations to normal examining arrangements are made.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Governance is the complex process of making binding collective decisions. The aim of the module is to explore both normative and empirical questions about the nature of democratic governance, with particular focus on the evolving relationship between citizens and the state (including different types of public authority). In the modern democratic state, citizens can at different times play the roles of stakeholder, decision-maker, agenda-setter, provider or customer/consumer of public services. Following reflection on competing theories of democracy and governance, the module evaluates a series of contemporary innovations in democratic governance that aim to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public policymaking and deepen citizen participation in political decision making. These include participatory budgeting, mini-publics, civic technologies, direct legislation, citizen science, and nudging. Teaching takes the form of lectures, seminars and workshops. Students are assessed by two separate submissions. 60% of marks for the course are assessed individually in an academic essay on topics covered in the first half of the course. The second submission (40%) comprises research culminating in the publication of a case-study for the project.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply written communication skills
  • Apply independent working skills
  • Use Problem solving skills
  • Analyse data
  • Apply oral communication skills
  • Apply Information Technology skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Appreciate different approaches and frameworks to understanding democratic theory and practice and the relationship between citizens and the state (and other public authorities)
  • Distinguish between different theoretical traditions and offer theoretically-informed analysis of developments in democratic practice


1. Why citizen participation in governance? 2. Barriers to citizen participation: the voice of the sceptics and critics 3. Contemporary theories of democracy and governance 4. Limits of elections and consultation 5. Participatory budgeting 6. Mini-publics 7. Direct legislation 8. Civic technology, E-governance and E-democracy 9. Nudging and behaviour change 10. Citizen Science 11. Lessons for institutional design 12. Analysing participatory practices

Special Features

Strong focus on student-led discussions based on individual and collective research

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

2-hour fornightly and 1-hour weekly seminars, 2 Lectures weekly. Materials for the essays will be introduced and discussed in the lectures and seminar sessions

Independent Study176
Total study time200

Resources & Reading list

Graham Smith (2009). Democratic Innovations. 

Gutmann and Thompson (1996). Democracy and Disagreement. 

Budge, Ian (1996). The New Challenge of Direct Democracy. 

Dahl, Robert (1998). On Democracy. 

Fishkin, James (1997). The Voice of the People. 

Held, David (2007). Models of Democracy. 

Saward, Michael (ed.) (2000). Democratic Innovation: Deliberation, Representation and Association. 

Smith, Graham (2005). Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World. 

Fung, Archon and Erik Olin Wright (eds) (2003). Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowering Participatory Governance. 


Assessment Strategy

One essay (2000 words) worth 60% One participedia case entry (3000 words) worth 40%.


MethodPercentage contribution
Case study  (4000 words) 40%
Coursework Presentation  (15 minutes) 10%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%
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