Paul Gurmendi. Tech For Society.

Clearly there is a debate about the legitimacy of “yielding” decision-making power over certain aspects of public administration. Is it OK for a group of citizens, a collective or other body to decide about a specific matter through a participation process? What would be the legitimacy of any decisions or conclusions taken during such a process? And ultimately, where would responsibility lie regarding any decisions taken, would it rest with the participants?

In response to such questions, my view is clear. Legitimacy rests with the political office which, for better or for worse, ultimately decides and is liable, politically, administratively or legally. But this doesn’t mean there is no need to open up the administration process, to promote participation in response to social demands and expectations, and improve the quality of life of those within the sphere of influence of the administration in question.

And it is precisely here where participation processes can provide public administrations with direct feedback, to help clarify what their citizens actually want, need or require regarding any type of plan, activity, programme or initiative, and which is rarely defined in government programmes. But let’s not forget that the objective of any participation process must be to achieve a suitable level of participation, in terms of its quantity, quality and representation. On the one hand to equip them with greater legitimacy, and on the other to ensure their content truly reflects the areas covered, having considered the full field of action applicable thereto.

Lastly, let us not commit the error of conferring value to poorly designed processes, with poor conclusions, or simply with an inadequate characterisation. In this sense, entirely face-to-face processes bring with them certain limitations, be they operational or budgetary, which cannot be overcome and, therefore, from a methodological perspective are born with limited scope. New technologies, combined with face-to-face activities, provide a key benefit: the ability to expand impact at a low cost.