Author Biography

John Gastil is a professor in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. He received his PhD in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994. He specializes in political deliberation and group decision making, and his books include The Jury and Democracy, Democracy in Small Groups (2nd ed.), Political Communication and Deliberation, and By Popular Demand.

Robert C. Richards, Jr. is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. He studies legal information and communication systems. His doctoral research concerns the communication of legal information about ballot initiatives to voters. His recent writings have appeared in Policy & Internet, Politics & Society, and elsewhere.

Matthew Ryan is a Lecturer in Governance and Public Policy at the University of Southampton. His research interests cross the boundaries between political theory and comparative politics, with a strong focus on innovative research methods. His recent research has been published in the journals Politics and Revista Internacional de Sociologia and in the book Deliberative Mini-publics: Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process (ECPR Press, 2014).

Graham Smith is Professor of Politics in the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster. His main research interests are in democratic theory and practice, environmental politics and the politics of the third sector/social economy. His most recent book is Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and his recent research has appeared in the journals Policy & Internet, Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Studies, Environmental Values, Ethical Perspectives, and elsewhere.


At smaller social scales, deliberative democratic theory can be restated as an input-process-output model. We advance such a model to formulate hypotheses about how the context and design of a civic engagement process shape the deliberation that takes place therein, as well as the impact of the deliberation on participants and subsequent policymaking. To test those claims, we extract and code case studies from Participedia.net, a research platform that has adopted a self-directed crowd-sourcing strategy to collect data on participatory institutions and deliberative interventions around the world. We explain and confront the challenges faced in coding and analyzing the Participedia cases, which involves managing reliability issues and missing data. In spite of those difficulties, regression analysis of the coded cases shows compelling results, which provide considerable support for our general theoretical model. We conclude with reflections on the implications of our findings for deliberative theory, the design of democratic innovations, and the utility of Participedia as a data archive.