Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2120: Democratic Innovations, Deliberation and Public Policy

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.

Module Aims

The main objective of the module is to equip you with knowledge of deliberative democratic innovations, their theoretical roots, their potential and their limitations. You will develop a critical understanding of deliberative democracy, and its applications. We will assess democratic innovations from the perspective of participants who have engaged in them, as well as those who have facilitated, commissioned and organised them. We examine what impact these innovations have had on policy, using examples from policy fields such as environmental policy, abortion, equal marriage and electoral reform.  We explore how inclusive these democratic innovations really are, whether they live up to claims about representativeness, as well as questions surrounding their legitimacy and impact. We also consider how these innovations can be coupled with systems of representative politics and issues of how we assess deliberative ‘quality’.  We focus on a variety of ‘mini publics’, such as citizen’s assemblies, citizen’s juries, village assemblies, deliberative polls, and participatory budgeting, as well as online deliberation, interest in which has increased significantly since the covid pandemic. The module convenor will draw on her own experience in conducting and researching deliberative public engagement.

The module will provide you with both practical and theoretical understanding of these forms of democratic innovation which will be invaluable if you are considering a career in public policy, politics, local or central government or the NGO sector where these approaches to public participation are increasingly used. You will also develop in-depth case specific knowledge of a particular innovation of your choosing, and will practice and enhance your own deliberation skills using moderated online discussion forums during the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. discuss the rationale and arguments that advocates of deliberative democracy make for democratic innovations and the counter arguments by sceptics
2. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a variety of democratic innovations, including their purpose, strengths and limitations and application in different contexts
3. articulate key principles in the design of effective deliberative processes
4. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the role of the ways in which deliberative democratic innovations are integrated into political systems and used to inform public policy
Discipline-Specific Skills5. apply concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics to the analysis of political ideas, institutions and practices
6. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of different political institutions; the nature and distribution of power relationships within and between them; the social, economic, historical and cultural contexts within which they operate
Personal and Key Skills7. construct reasoned argument, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
8. gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of sources