Do flexible institutions enhance democracy? A comparative analysis of public governance innovations in Brazil and the UK (Jul 2014 - Jul 2016)


Professor Chris Skelcher and Dr Catherine Durose.


Academic partners:

Professor José Álvaro Moisés and Dr. José Veríssimo Romão Netto, Centre for Public Policy, University of São Paulo, Brazil


FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation) / University of Birmingham


The purpose of this exploratory research is to bring complementary expertise from the UK and Brazil to the analysis of democratic innovations -  the global search for new ways in which societal, economic and cultural problems can be resolved through the direct involvement of citizens, civil society organisations, and other parties. The Brazilian and UK researchers have identified two paradoxes of contemporary democratic innovations. 

First: acceptance of a democratic form of government as the ideal has become an almost universal consensus, but on the other hand public evaluation of the performance of democratic institutions is increasingly negative and has become marked by political mistrust and  unwillingness to participate.

Second, elected politicians themselves, the media and societal discourse frame the political executive as ultimately being accountable for public policy and its implementation; but at the same time those politicians are engaged in delegation of responsibilities to participative institutions, thus undermining representative democracy by weakening the connection between the electoral process and public policy decisions.

Project aims and objectives

We will address   the following research objectives:

  1. To develop a theoretical model of the relationship between innovative forms of public governance and the quality of democracy.
  2. To produce a step-change in methods for assessing quality of democracy cross-nationally and taking account of governance innovations, by utilising advanced social science   research techniques.
  3. To pilot and evaluate the theory and methods developed in 1 and 2 above in empirical case studies in Brazil and the UK.
  4. To generate new internationally and nationally relevant knowledge about public governance innovations in Brazil and the UK.
  5. To use the findings from 1 - 4 above to generate a large-scale research proposal to further extend this work.
  6. To identify the potential for other research collaborations, research-based teaching, and activities/outputs for policy audiences (e.g. executive workshops, continuing professional development). 

More information

For further information about this project, please contact
Professor Chris Skelcher ( or Dr Catherine Durose (