Brenda Ogembo

"Participating in Participation" or Influencing Policy Outcomes? Evaluating the Effects of Public Participation in Kenya's County Assemblies

Supervisors: Dr Catherine Durose and Professor Vivien Lowndes

"How can we be sure that participation results in any improvement over previous ways of doing things, or indeed of any effective or useful consequences at all" (Rowe and Frewer, 2004). This question raises important concerns about the benefits of public participation. Proponents of increased participation and deliberation argue that it increases faith in the basic tenets of democracy and a perception of the democratic system as legitimate, as well as leading to political decisions that are "more considered and informed by relevant reasons and evidence" (Delli Carpini, 2004, p. 320). The increased focus on public participation and its supposed overwhelming benefits have seen the idea of citizen engagement take on an almost "human-rights" perspective with some of its proponents seeing it as a civil, human or political right (Burton, 2009). In many instances particularly in development narratives, participation has become an almost ritualistic expectation whose many benefits cannot be questioned (Cooke and Kothari, 2001).

The continually extolled virtues of participation has seen the explosion in academic literature of numerous typologies of public participation advanced by various scholars which are aimed at not only allowing citizens inform decision making, but can be said to be driven by the need to address perceived democratic deficits of representative democracy (Rowe and Frewer, 2000; Fung and Wright, 2003; Wampler, 2012). Interestingly however, despite the focus of participatory and deliberative democracy on addressing the perceived democratic deficits of representative democracy, Leston-Bandeira (2012) notes that “the relationship between parliament and citizens is one of the least studied areas in legislative studies”. The increasing demand for participation has globally seen parliaments also begin to make significant efforts to increase opportunities for public engagement to address increasing challenges of political apathy and reducing public trust in representative democracy (Leston-Bandeira, 2012, 2016).

My research, based on a case study of two county assemblies in Kenya, will contribute to the nascent literature on the relationship between parliament and citizens by exploring the effects public engagement in parliaments to better understand the outcomes of public participation in legislative contexts. It is expected that the results from this research will provide empirical evidence on whether increased and direct engagement of the public in policy-making affects decision-making processes by legislators. Concurrently the research will also examine if engaging the public in parliamentary decision-making leads to increased institutional trust through increased legitimacy of parliaments policy decisions.


I started my PhD after spending the last two years working with the Senate of the Parliament of Kenya as First Clerk Assistant. I had the responsibility of managing at various time the Committees on Finance, Budget and Commerce; Lands and Natural Resources and the Committee on Devolved Government. I also served as the Coordinator of the Senate County Liaison Office, and I was responsible for coordinating and guiding the engagement of the Senate with devolution policy and other devolved institutions. Before joining Parliament, I was a Senior Programme Officer at the State University of New York (SUNY) Centre for International Development, where I worked for four years in the field Legislative Development. I was responsible for programme design and development of techniques to strengthen legislative and oversight capacity of the Kenyan Parliament.

I am currently on academic study leave from Parliament to pursue my PhD after being awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship in 2016 to explore the effects of public participation in legislative contexts with the objective of trying to inform better ways of citizen engagement in legislatures. I hold an MA in Public Policy from King’s College London which I completed in 2011 on a Chevening Scholarship award.


  • MA, Public Policy (2011), King's College London
  • Bachelor of Commerce, Finance Major (2008), Strathmore University

Research interests

  • Governance and public policy
  • Devolved Governance
  • Parliament and Public Engagement
  • Democratization in Africa
  • Legislative Behaviour
  • Ethnicity and Political Behaviour
  • Parliamentary Reform
  • African Politics

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