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Author Biography

Matt Leighninger is the Vice President for Public Engagement, and Director of the Yankelovich Center, at Public Agenda. Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and work together to find solutions. Over the last twenty years, Matt has worked with public engagement efforts in over 100 communities, in 40 states and four Canadian provinces. His first book, The Next Form of Democracy, is a firsthand account of the wave of democratic innovation that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. His second, Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy, co-authored with Tina Nabatchi, was released by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015.

Abstract

What is the economic argument for public engagement? Around the world, public officials and other leaders have devised new ways to engage citizens in decision-making and problem-solving – but typically they have focused on planning, budgeting, and schools rather than poverty, inequality, or other economic issues. Meanwhile, emerging evidence from Brazil and other parts of the Global South suggests that sustained patterns of engagement builds social capital, which in turn has an impact on a range of indicators, including economic inequality and the distribution of wealth. This article summarizes several disparate areas of research on the connections between engagement and inequality, and suggest new questions and directions for innovation.

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