How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation?

fossheim-karin2Karin Fossheim

Research on the democratic legitimacy of non-elected actors influencing policy while acting as representatives is often lacking in governance literature, despite being increasingly relevant worldwide in both established and emerging democracies. Recent theories of representation argue that there are non-electoral mechanisms to appoint such non-elected representatives and hold them responsible for their actions. Consequently, democratic non-electoral representation can be achieved. Through in-depth, empirical analysis, this article explores democratic non-electoral representation in governance networks by comparing how non-elected representatives, their constituents and the decision-making audience understand the outcome of representation to benefit the constituency, authorisation and accountability. This analysis explores the perspectives of the non-elected representatives, the constituency and the audience and discusses the theoretical implications of the results.

The research findings conclude that all three groups mostly share the understanding of democratic non-electoral representation as ongoing interactions between representatives and constituents, multiple (if any) organisational and discursive sources of authorisation and deliberative aspects of accountability. All of these are mechanisms that, in the absence of elections, can secure democratic representation. Contrary to what the theory suggests, accountability based on sanctions is not considered essential to ensure democratic non-electoral representation.

These findings make an important contribution to the literature on non-electoral representation in policymaking and to the broader literature on representative democracy.

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics

Fossheim Karin (2022) How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation? Policy and Politics DOI:

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Polycentric governance networks – how do they work in metropolitan planning organizations?

Asim Zia
Asim Zia

Asim Zia, University of Vermont, discusses the background to his article in the latest issue of Policy & Politics, Scale and intensity of collaboration as determinants of performance management gaps in polycentric governance networks: Evidence from a national survey of metropolitan planning organisations (MPOs)

This article represents convergence of two theoretical streams in the public policy, political science and public management literature: on the one hand, Elinor Ostrom’s stellar career laid the foundations for the notion of ‘polycentric governance’; on the other hand, advancements in network governance and collaborative governance theory led to the notion of ‘governance networks’ that use methodological rigor of network science and systems analysis to unpack decision making dynamics in various public and public-private action arenas. In this paper, we develop the theoretical notion of ‘polycentric governance networks’ and study their manifestation in the world of ‘metropolitan planning organizations’ (MPOs).

In our social-ecological gaming and simulation (SEGS) lab, which I co-direct with Professor Chris Koliba, empirical investigation and the simulation of a large variety of governance networks is one of our primary research Continue reading