Accountable Do-ocracy: an exploratory study of the accountability practices of active citizens
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Increasingly, active citizens are taking on a role in public service provision. By ‘(co) creating the public sphere, not by deliberating, voting or bargaining, but by realizing concrete projects in the public domain of their neighborhood’, they engage in what is called 'do-ocracy' (Van de Wijdeven, 2012). These active citizens are applauded for their contribution to local issues, but also raise some questions regarding democratic legitimacy, as their actions influence the public sphere and the lives of others, often using public resources in the process. This study explores the issue of democratic legitimacy through the concept of public accountability. It sets out to investigate what practices of public accountability citizen initiatives engage in, and evaluates how these contribute to do-ocracy’s democratic legitimacy? In order to answer this question, a literature review and a series of semi-structured interviews with active citizens has been conducted, supplemented with document analysis. In addition, a new framework of democratic accountability is developed specifically for the context of active citizenship, as the concept of democratic accountability so far, has almost exclusively been used in the context of representative democracy. Applying this framework of accountability reveals that active citizens engage in accountability processes with local government and their community. The paper discusses how these processes contribute to democratic legitimacy and pinpoints potential risks and opportunities.