Book chapter by Joan Balcells, Rosa Borge and Albert Padró-Solanet, published at the edited volume by Adrian Bua and Sonia Bussu (2023) Reclaiming Participatory Governance: Social Movements and the Reinvention of Democratic Innovation. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Chapter 12, pages 191-208. Available online for UOC’s members:
Open-source participatory platforms originally designed and led by protest activists from the 15-M and free software movements in Spain are being adopted by many local governments. Its development exemplifies the tensions between a model of democracy-driven governance for which these platforms were planned and the managerial governance-driven functioning of public administrations. Through quantitative and qualitative methods, we study how public administrators view the implementation of the widespread platform Decidim among Catalan local governments. The platform’s success -in terms of the number of registered citizens- depends on several organizational and institutional factors, and support from key stakeholders. Remarkably, the wider the use of the platform is, the more likely to find reluctance among local associations, which fear disintermediation. In addition, the existence of previous participation structures and the overemphasis on transparency are negatively associated with the platform’s success. Our main contribution is to show the obstacles, drivers and some trade-offs that condition the development and success of participatory platforms as a tool for more democratic-driven governance.