2018 Conference Presentation
Background and objectives: Political participation is at the heart of democracy (Verba et al 2012) The paper asks how we can explain differences in the voluntary participation of civil society in municipal care policy processes on the example of senior citizen representatives. Those provide an interesting case because they are regarded as an innovative participation instrument. Political participation is often explained with reference to the overall strength of civil society or the effect of public institutions. The paper argues that the degreee of political participation also depends on the main orientation of the civil society actors between the civil or the public realm.
Methods: The paper is based on an explorative study on senior representatives in local elderly care policies in four German cities. Political participation is measured by the extent to which the senior representatives participate in local care policy processes. The analysis is based on 37 qualitative interviews with local experts and relevant political actors, publicly available data as well as the analysis of minutes of the social committee of the four cities – two Western and two Eastern cases.
Results and conclusion: The analysis shows that the senior representatives participate to a quite different degree in the local care policy processes. The differences cannot be explained by differences in the strength of the civil societies, because the two senior representatives with lower degrees of political participation operate in cities with stronger civil societies. The public institutions operationalised as participatory rights and the openess of local governance structures for civil society participation do play a role in explaining the differences. That is because the senior representatives in cities with higher openess of the local governance structures for public participation show a higher degree of participation. However, high participatory rights do not necessary lead to high degrees of participation in local care policy processes. The main factor for explaining the differences in the degree of participation is the orientation of the senior representatives themselves. Those senior representatives with rather low degrees of participation do engage more towards the civil society realm and those with higher degrees engage towards the public as well as the civil society realm.