Webinar (in French)

How can we better exploit citizen’s emotions in participatory processes

This event is over, check out the recording below.

The experience of participatory processes is often fraught with emotion: anger at injustice, frustration at the short time available for deliberation, joy at the proposals that emerge, hopes for the future, etc. 

Yet political science has shown little interest in this dimension. Emotions are often perceived as disruptive to the deliberative process, which is conceived as a rational exchange of arguments. 

Four inspiring ways emotions can enhance CI methods:

1. The Jan sunwai, “public hearing” in India, presented by Stéphanie Tawa-Lama
This format of public hearing comes to tackle one major issue to democracy in India: the fear of administration, and the heritage of a cast society. From that original emotion of fear, the organizers of Jan sunwai help citizens to express their concern, to speak up. Lasting from one to three days, these hearings gather all actors by the public policy in question: the citizens as beneficiaries, the administration in charge, an expert group composed of activists and lawyers and the public, namely neighborhoods’ inhabitants. The magic happens in this democratic theater: emotions are shown. Hyped up by the crowd singing songs too. Not all jan sunwais succeed, but when they do, citizens feel empowered on the long-term, and find the courage to speak up for their rights.

“When successful, jan sunwai is a system that empowers the citizens who benefit from public policies.”

2. People’s jury, in France, presented by Célia Gissinger-Bosse
How does a people’s jury trigger a decision at the frontier between reason and emotion?
A judgment is taken by the jury based on an “intimate conviction” they swear, that can be translated by a “firm belief” that tells just that the truth is somewhere just between feelings, emotions, and reason. One has to rationally analyze his/her emotions to make a good judgment. In France until 2018, people’s jury was a frequent mechanism to try criminal cases (now it is applied only for cases with sentences above 20 years). Célia Gissinger-Bosse observed those for her research and described them as “emotions’ dramatization” by excellence. From surprise to being picked, to fear of being part of a jury, citizens who are selected experienced something quite unusual. The heavy and symbolic environment of a court of justice adds to the weight felt of their responsibility. Emotions here are paradoxically expressed: juries have to silence them, while witnesses are expected to let them out, to convince. Emotions act as an “authenticity” cursor, conveying a deeper search for humanity, helping the jury to balance its emotions and build its intimate conviction.

“The place of emotions for the citizen who participates in a people’s jury is to experience this constant change of emotions, opinions and facts, and to go through the debates shifting between reasoning and emotions, between intimacy and conviction, which at a given moment comes to structure a judgment.”

3. The fate of native population in Chili, presented by Matile Spoerer
Putting a group that has a feeling of marginalization and distrust towards the State at ease in a dialogue process is essential to its success. Matilde Sporer showed us how in the case of native population of Chili, the process put in place by the administration, the “consensus table”, had to go from a cold, impersonal, sophisticated environment of a hotel to actually going to the natives’ regions and houses to make them at ease and understand their realities. The relation of natives in Chili to the State is one filled with emotions: a original discontent is there, and can’t be erased in one public dialogue. How to manage this anger? How to transcend injustice to build together, for better public policies? The answer is not simple, and it shouldn’t be. This story in the making is a good reminder that the form of a State should not be taken for granted, that some populations do not have an “experience of the State” and that State’s legitimacy has to be gained, and this passes too through emotions.

“The experience of participation can be an opportunity for building confidence in the State when it is successful, and when we manage to create spaces for genuine listening and respect.”

4. Emotional work around onshore wind power energy projects in France, by Stéphanie Dechézelles
Emotions are not the monopoly of citizens, and administrators or facilitators entitled with citizens’ hearing too can let them show. Since the 1980s, public inquiries in France have gathered opinions on environmentally impactful projects, including wind power initiatives, while also delving into citizens’ emotions. Demonstrations ignited a range of intense feelings: fear of project realization, disgust at a lack of information, anger towards officials, government, and indifferent citizens, frustration in voicing opinions elsewhere, and indignation over rumors of compromise or corruption. Investigating commissioners’ essential work highlighted the need to acknowledge emotions in decision-making and public discourse. When the figure of the commissioner was supposed to represent reason, neutrality hence absence of emotions, Stéphanie Dechezelles’ research actually showed that they too could not help but to let out emotions show in the investigation’s report, showing empathy towards some witnesses whose opinion was collected.

Recent administrative and legal developments in France show that “it is the voice of those who would say no (to the above-mentioned projects) that is actually muzzled behind the watchwords of civil service efficiency and bureaucracy reduction. It is not subjective to consider that this reduces the possibility for citizens to exercise a right of scrutiny over projects that concern them.”

Invited speakers

Join this event if you want to

  • understand the key role emotions play in successful deliberations
  • to learn how to make participants feel more included


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