CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Dr. Gabriel Hetland Speaks on Participatory Democracy

On September 20, 2017, political sociologist Dr. Gabriel Hetland (SUNY Albany) presented his research on urban participatory governance in Latin America.

While conducting his research, Dr. Hetland spent 22 months over nearly 10 years in four different communities – two in Venezuela and two in Bolivia – in order to study the effectiveness of participatory democracy in different political contexts. The cities where Dr. Hetland carried out his research were governed by both right-wing and left-wing political parties and located in countries with very different relationships between civil society and the state.

Dr. Hetland found that, contrary to popular belief, Venezuela’s top-down, state-led approach to participatory governance actually appeared to be more successful in translating citizens’ opinions into public policies than the bottom-up, grassroots approach taken in Bolivia. Another major finding was that, despite the association of participatory governance with left-wing political parties, center-right and right-wing governments can also foster effective popular participation under the right circumstances.

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