Innovating local representative democracy: How citizens evaluate new roles of elected and non-elected representatives

Bas Denters*, Hans Vollaard, Hester van de Bovenkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


In many Western countries, citizens tend to support democratic ideals, while at the same time being increasingly critical of the functioning of key democratic institutions, including political representation. This paper explores how the innovation of representative democracy might help to resolve this Democratic Paradox as presented by Robert Dahl that is experienced by many citizens. Taking people’s views as a starting point, our main question is: How do citizens evaluate innovative roles of elected and non-elected representatives, and what are the implications of these evaluations in terms of strengthening local democracy? Using unique survey-data from the 2018 Dutch Local Election Studies, we answer this question by building upon theories of political representation by both elected and non-elected representatives, which are actors such as social or medical professionals who are not authorized through political election, but nevertheless claim to represent citizens’ interests. On this basis, we conclude that Dutch citizens are not particularly satisfied with the performance of their elected representatives. Furthermore, our analyses suggest two innovations that, in combination, can help address the challenges posed by the Democratic Paradox. First, in response to the rise of interactive and collaborative governance, elected representatives could consider adopting new roles as democratic facilitators and monitors. Second, as part of these new roles, elected representatives could consider innovating representative democracy by integrating non-elected representatives in the local representative system, as the involvement of these non-elected representatives might address the weaknesses of the current system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInnovation Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • democratic innovation
  • local democracy
  • non-electoral representation
  • representation
  • representative claims
  • n/a OA procedure


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