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The Public Participation of Civic Initiative Groups during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Romania. An Exploration of Public Participation Definitions, Obstacles, and Opportunities

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the daily lives of citizens, their interactions with their communities, the nongovernmental sector and the public administration, as well as threatening the continuity of the civic initiatives they had developed. This paper draws on the scientific literature on public participation and uses qualitative methods of inquiry (semi-structured interviews) to explore how external factors, in this case the COVID-19 pandemic, affected the public participation of citizens organised in civic initiative groups in Bucharest, Romania. One key contribution of the study pertains to the interplay between practice and the conceptual level of public participation. In this respect, the results showed that many members of civic group perceive it to be genuinely contradictory in practice in their definitions of public participation. However, their ideal visions of public participation in genuine democratic politics are markedly collaborative. The research showed that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on civic groups has been quite limited, adding obstacles to public participation but also enabling opportunities. In particular, it can be concluded that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing challenges. It should also be noted that co-creation of public services can be defined by a certain level of continuity, especially in the case of civic groups that were involved in co-initiation.

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Sujets de la revue:
Social Sciences, Political Science, Local Government and Administration