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Democracy, populism and democratic innovations


12-13 November 2021

Lang EN Workshop language is English

Prof. Nenad Stojanović (Université de Genève)

Dr. Elisa Volpi, CUSO coordinator



Nenad Stojanović (Université de Genève)

Sofie Marien (KU Leuven)

Paolo Spada (University of Southampton)

Laurence Morel (Université de Lille)


It is nowadays commonplace to say that "democracy is in crisis". Political parties have become "disconnected from the wider society" and "no longer seem capable of sustaining democracy in its present form" (Mair: 2013: 1). A significant share of citizens do not trust elected politicians (the "elites") and/or are open to embrace populist proposals and to vote for populist parties and politicians. Hence a large scholarly debate has developed on how to reform democracy in order to promote citizen participation, enhance the legitimacy of democratic institutions and address the challenge of populism (see Smith 2009). Within a range of possible "democratic innovations", a large place is occupied by "deliberative minipublics" (i.e. randomly selected citizens' assemblies) but there is also a renewed – albeit far from uncontested – interest in the bottom-up (rather than top-down) models of direct democracy.

The CUSO 2021 retreat, by combining focused inputs and interactive exchange, will allow the doctoral students of political science to explore this and related topics with prominent scholars working in this field. 


Mair, Peter. 2013. Ruling the Void. The Hollowing of Western Democracies. Verso.

Smith, Graham. 2009. Democratic Innovations. Designing Institutions for Citizens Participation. Cambridge UP.


Friday, 12 November 2021


9:30 Arrival / welcome coffee/tea

10:00 Introduction by Nenad Stojanović (Université de Genève)

10:30 Keynote by Sofie Marien (KU Leuven) : "Tackling public dissatisfaction through citizen involvement: a problem-based approach"

11:15 Q&A

12:00 Lunch

13:15 "My PhD in 180 seconds" (for examples see here)

7 PhD students (3' each) / short Q&A

14:00 Workshop 1 with Paolo Spada (University of Southampton) on contemporary challenges in the field of democratic innovations

Introduction (20') followed by a short Q&A (10')

Interactive simulation of participatory budgeting (90')

16:00 Break

16:30 Workshop 2 (optional) with Paolo Spada: "Evaluating deliberative minipublics: the systemic approach"

Presentation (45'), followed by a Q&A (30')

18:15 Guided tour of the Château Mercier (TBC)

19:30 Dinner


Saturday, 13 November 2021

8:00 Breakfast

9:30 "My PhD in 180 seconds"

8 PhD students (3' each) / short Q&A

10:00 Workshop 3 with Laurence Morel (Université de Lille): "Direct democracy in ordinary citizen's-oriented theories of democratic innovation"

Presentation (30'), followed by a brief comment by a discussant (5') and a general discussion

11:30 Wrap up 

12:00 Lunch (Château Mercier)





Chateau Mercier: Mnt du Château 19, 3960 Sierre - 

Students are expected to arrive by 10:00 h on the morning of November 12th.

All costs are covered by the CUSO.



Délai d'inscription 31.10.2021
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