HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government


The past two decades have seen a proliferation of large- and small-scale experiments in participatory governance. This article takes stock of claims about the potential of citizen participation to advance three values of democratic governance: effectiveness, legitimacy, and social justice. Increasing constraints on the public sector in many societies, combined with increasing demand for individual engagement and the affordances of digital technology, have paved the way for participatory innovations aimed at effective governance. Deepening legitimation deficits of representative government create opportunities for legitimacy-enhancing forms of citizen participation, but so far, the effect of participation on legitimacy is unclear. Efforts to increase social justice through citizen participation face the greatest obstacles. The article concludes by highlighting three challenges to creating successful participatory governance: the absence of systematic leadership, the lack of popular or elite consensus on the place of direct citizen participation, and the limited scope and powers of participatory innovations.


Fung, Archon. "Putting the Public Back into Governance: The Challenges of Citizen Participation and Its Future." Public Administration Review 75.4 (July/August 2015): 513–522.