Evaluating Democratic Performance: Methodologies for Assessing the Relationship between Network Governance and Citizens


Navdeep Mathur is a research fellow at the Institute for Local Government Studies, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. He conducts research on critical approaches to policy analysis and discursive methodology, focusing on collaborative and participatory governance, democratic practice, organizational performance and theory, urban revitalization and neighborhood politics.
E-mail: n.mathur@bham.ac.uk.

Chris Skelcher is a professor of local government studies at the Institute for Local Government Studies and director of research for the School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. During 2003–04, he was the ESRC/EPSRC Public Service Fellow in Governance and Performance at the Advanced Institute for Management Research. His research concentrates on the governance and management of public services and the implications for local communities.
E-mail: c.k.skelcher@bham.ac.uk.


Network governance can enhance democratic practice by furnishing new routes for actors to deliberate, make, and execute public policy. But it is hindered by a lack of political oversight, limited democratic competence of new organizational forms, and informality of operation. Little research has been conducted on the democratic performance of governance networks, and the methodology is poorly developed. Quality-of-democracy studies of national governmental and political systems offer a starting point. Their criteria-based method is useful in accessing the democratic “hardware” of formal entities, such as partnerships and hybrids, but it does not enable data to be gathered on democratic “software”—the informal day-to-day practices of actors in networks. Interpretive approaches offer a way forward. Narrative analysis, qualitative interviews using a criteria-based instrument, and Q-methodology provide routes into democratic software. They enable the researcher to move beyond the analysis of institutional nodes and to understand the democratic performance of the wider governance network.