Review of Do-It-Yourself Democracy: The Rise of the Public Engagement Industry
by Jennifer Kelkres Emery, University of West Florida
The public engagement industry, also self-titled as the Dialogue and Deliberation industry (D&D), refers to public engagement that is orchestrated by paid employees that are hired to solicit public opinions. Both governments and corporations hire D&D consultants to get citizens from a target group to deliberate about decisions that affect the community. These consultants create events that may look similar to focus groups or town hall meetings. Lee’s study of this industry leads to some subversive ideas about the value of public engagement. Lee argues that public engagement does not always lead to a societal benefit, challenging our long-held belief that public participation in government is to be revered. While citizen participation in government has traditionally been considered to have only a positive effect on citizens, Lee suggests that we remove that “moral halo,” as she puts it, and begin to critically appraise the process of public engagement. Public engagement has been developed by the D&D industry into commercially packaged inputs that deliver a guaranteed output — a portrait of public opinion. Based on Lee’s observations, that portrait is not necessarily accurate or positive in its effect on the policy process.
Journal of Political Science Education | Pages 114-116 | Volume 13, 2017 – Issue 1, Published online: 09 Jun 2016