Juraj Nemec, Professor of Public Finance and Management, Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic and Matej Bel University Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.
Participation of different stakeholders refers to their involvement in both policy making and public services delivery. Stakeholders can be citizens or communities, civil society organisations and/or private sector subjects that are both able and eager to engage in improving public service delivery, building a broader consensus and supporting the design and implementation of public projects. An important aspect of stakeholders' engagement is their socialisation and empowerment, as a result of which citizens better understand public decisions and policies and consequently, contribute to greater public value. At the same time, through these interactions, the public sector becomes more sensitive to the context and capable of mobilising citizens' resources, knowledge and experience with the purpose of responding more effectively to their needs. Despite the advantages, there are also certain challenges involved in public participation: it may be (seen as) overly time-consuming and expensive, lacking adequate institutional and human resource capacity, being influenced by interest groups, and affected by the decreased legitimacy and accountability of elected officials.
At the same time, participatory experiences are not universal across the different administrative traditions, which differently shape and influence the level of stakeholder engagement in public affairs. For instance, 'co-'concepts are often identified in the context of the New Public Governance Model which prevails in the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic administrative traditions, where citizens are traditionally more involved in public affairs. In contrast, the Central Eastern European (CEE) countries usually trying to catch up with and follow already established trends in Western Europe. This is often carried out without any critical deliberation as to how these 'western' ideas and concepts should be implemented (or adapted) within the context from the environment in which they were initially developed. And it is precisely through approaching participation/engagement through the prism of different administrative traditions, we recognise the key issue that requires wider debate and elaboration ‒ not only in terms of how, when and where we can examine the advantages of engagement, but also in terms of the possible disadvantages and challenges of the process.
Therefore, the NISPAcee annual conference in 2021 is expected to attract papers that will invigorate discussion about possible ways of citizens' empowerment in the CEE region, in connection to its developments/tradition, governance practices, regulatory framework, financial capacity, public policy, digitalisation processes, human resource management and public administration itself. This topic can be elaborated upon by experts, researchers and scholars from different disciplines, not only at the main session but also in working groups and panel sessions.