Institutional Innovation

3a/2024 Institutional Innovation and Participatory Democracy in Multilevel Systems

  • Deutsch
  • English
  • Italiano

This research cluster comprises both basic research as well as applied research in the field of federalism, democracy and governance. It aims at discovering better governance solutions in times when the legitimacy of traditional democratic institutions and decision-making processes are increasingly questioned. By rethinking traditional concepts of both citizen representation and participation in compound States, the projects of "Institutional Innovation and Participatory Democracy" devote close attention to issues of how decisions are currently taken, and how they can be more effectively and democratically taken in an interconnected world. It includes projects at local, euro-regional, national and international level.


The research cluster “Institutional Innovation and Participatory Democracy” integrates various strands of the Institute’s comparative studies in reconsidering the theoretical and empirical framework of federalism, democracy and governance, and their interplay. Nowadays, the challenge lies less in how to divide the spheres of government but rather in how to better connect them, by, at the same time, involving actors that have previously been excluded from traditional decision-making procedures and the channels of institutional representation. To what extent the institutionalization of new instruments and models of citizens' participation are a means to govern better and thus to better equip government structures and governance processes with innovative tools is the overarching research question of this research cluster.


In short, the projects within this cluster aim to:

  • contribute to the re-consideration of the theoretical framework of federalism, democracy, governance, and their interplay;
  • empirically analyze mechanisms and procedures of cooperation and coordination in decision-making processes among governmental levels, and between governmental levels and the different institutional and societal actors that push for more participation through case studies;
  • advance the research on subnational institutional innovation and participatory democracy;
  • develop a set of training activities for administrations and stakeholders with regard to participatory democracy and decision-making processes at various governmental levels.


Among others, we closely cooperate with the Universities of Innsbruck, Bolzano/Bozen, Trento, Verona, Speyer, Barcelona, Andrassy, Stellenbosch, Tufts; with international, national, regional and local networks (Center for Democracy Aarau, Forum of Federations, Aragona Government, Foster Europe, Devolution Club, Euroregional Association for Comparative Public Law and European Law, South Tyrolean Political Science Association) and associations/stakeholders dealing with direct and participatory democracy as well as—for trainings and consultancy—with various international master programs, regional and provincial administrations, and municipalities. Internationally, the researchers are involved in research groups on deliberative democracy and federalism within IPSA, ECPR and the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy. From 2019 onwards, researchers are also involved in the COST Action "Constitution-making and deliberative democracy".

Examples of projects are:
-the EU-funded project “POP! Paths of Participation” (concluded) in the Euroregion Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino; it involved research associations and stakeholders from Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino. Its outcome (a bilingual publication and a guide for civil servants about the use of participatory instruments and methods at municipal level) has led to a wide variety of follow-up activities, such as training courses for civil servants etc.
-Consultancy activities for the Autonomous Province of Trento with regard to participatory practices (e.g. Communities of the Valley)
-Consultancy activities, implementation and scientific supervision of the Consulta in Trentino for the Revision of the Autonomous Statute of the Region Trentino-South Tyrol; and the Autonomy Convention in South Tyrol for the Revision of the Autonomous Statute of the Region Trentino-South Tyrol (for details see extra project entry).
-Within Eurac Research, the Institute is part of the transdisciplinary research group “Governance”, led by the Institute for Regional Development and Location Management. A project on cross-border cooperation and municipal governance is concluded in 2019.
- In 2015, the publication in English “Citizen Participation in Multi-Level Democracies” (Brill-Nijhoff).
- In 2018, the publication Politika 2018, the yearbook of the South Tyrolean Political Science Association (analysis of the Consulta and the Autonomy Convention processes, participatory constitution-making processes, respectively in the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen).
- In 2020, an edited volume on the theory and practice of deliberative democracy and participatory processes in and across European States.
- In 2019/2020, within the programme Alpine Space (Governance), the Institute continues to carry out follow-up activities linked to the the third-funds project "Youth Governance in the Alpine Space (GAYA)" (see extra project entry).
- From 2019 onwards, researchers are involved in the EU-funded COST Action “Constitution-making and deliberative democracy” (CA17135) as external members.
-  Within the H2020 framework, Eurac researchers elaborated a grant application as lead in early 2020 (ECOmPLEX - ECOsystem for Participatory and deliberative Experimentations). Unfortunately, the project did not pass. However, there are already ideas on how to advance with the project consortium (18 international well-known experts in the field).


Reflecting on Democratic Innovations through federalism: citizen participation, power-sharing and decision-making processes
Trettel M (2021)

Conference: IPSA World Congress 2021 - New Nationalisms in an Open World | Lisbon | 10.1.2021 - 14.1.2021

Transnationale Formen der Partizipation in grenzüberschreitenden Regionen
Zwilling C (2017)

Conference: Partizipation und Governance - Herausforderungen und neue Ansätze in Politik, Recht und Praxis | Bozen | 25.9.2017 - 27.9.2017

Our partners


1 - 10

view all

Institute's Projects