Lay summary

The proposed research project is concerned with assessing the quality of local democracy, or more precisely with democratic urban governance with regard to city planning. Since existing indices of ‘good’ urban governance fail in giving a differentiated assessment of the democratic quality of urban governance, it is proposed to develop a comparative framework which is able to reasonably compare democratic urban governance of cities coming from different democratic traditions and leaving to different democratic futures. The project proposal delineates a multidimensional framework based on three fundamental values which have been shaping the institutions of local representative government and local direct legislation. It is suggested to evaluate ‘democratic innovations’ or ‘governance-driven democratization’ by their contribution to the democratic dimensions of public accountability and inclusion of all affected. It is argued that the assessment of democratic urban governance must paint a wider picture of democracy by conceiving governance-driven democratization as embedded in the context of a representative government and direct legislation.

The research project is divided into three parts. The first step consists of theoretically conceptualizing and concretizing the comparative framework, the second step envisages case studies for democratic governance in Vancouver and Zurich, representing two opposed traditions of democracy. In the third stage the comparative analysis and aggregated measures of democratic governance for both cities will serve as a first field test for the comparative framework.