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Politics and International Relations (PIR): People


Oliver Escobar

Oliver Escobar
Dr Oliver Escobar
Lecturer in Public Policy and Co-Director of What Works Scotland
3.04 Chrystal Macmillan Building Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 651 3783
Research Interests
Public participation, Policy Processes, Public services, participatory and deliberative democracy, collaborative governance and partnerships, Community Planning, public dialogue and deliberation, knowledge brokering, facilitation and mediation, participation practitioners, policy work and policy workers, democratic innovations, Interpretive Policy Analysis, political ethnography, Mixed methods

Feedback and guidance hours

In term time: Mondays 10am - 1pm or by appointment


  • Master's Degree in Political Science and Public Administration (1997-2002)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching (2003)
  • MPhil in Policy Making (2002-2004)
  • Master in Public Management (2003)
  • PhD in Politics (2014)

Current and past work

I am a Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh (Politics and IR), and Co-Director of What Works Scotland –an ESRC/Scottish Government funded program to connect research, policy and practice and improve public services and policy innovation. My contribution to WWS builds on my previous research on collaborative governance and participatory policy making. I lead the WWS workstream on Community Engagement and Capacity Building, and co-lead on Partnerships and Governance.

See my blog HERE.








I received my PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh, where I held a Principal’s Career Development Scholarship. My research subject was participatory policy making, with a focus on the everyday work of public engagement practitioners in the context of local democracy.

My first funded research project (2002-2004, European Social Fund and Galician Government) was on the policy making process of public intervention against poverty and social exclusion in Galicia. Over the years I have enjoyed learning as a facilitator and analyst in various policy arenas locally, nationally and internationally. 

Between 2008-2010 I worked at the Dialogue Research Project (Queen Margaret University) helping to set up QMU’s Centre for Dialogue. I am a Public Engagement Fellow of Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement) since 2009, where I am involved in developing  courses, forums and activities in the areas of dialogue and deliberation, public engagement, and policy practice.

Between 2010-2013 I was the Project Officer of the Public Policy Network, where I am still the convener of the Citizen Participation Network. I am also a trained participation practitioner (International Association for Public Participation).

I was the Project Director for the ‘Citizens' Juries about Onshore Windfarms’ research project, funded by ClimateXChange. I now lead on the Participatory Budgeting strand of What Works Scotland and I am a member of the Scottish Government PB Working Group.

From November 2013, I have worked on Mixed Methods research and teaching with Prof. Andrew Thompson using data from a large study of the European Commission. I recently concluded the first part of an international study of 'People who make a difference in neighbourhoods' using Q Methodology with colleagues in England, Netherlands and Denmark. 

Demo Max

I contributed to develop So Say Scotland (a hub for participatory politics and democratic innovation), as well as the year-long deliberative process led by the Electoral Reform Society: Democracy Max -An Inquiry into the Future of Scottish Democracy. In November 2014, I was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Democratic Audit UK.

I also carry out participatory and deliberative projects for the Academy of Government. For instance, I designed and facilitated participatory forums for the COSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, and deliberative processes for Voluntary Action Scotland / Third Sector Interfaces, and ClimateXChange.

Teaching and Training

I have given lectures and workshops on dialogue and deliberation, citizen participation, political communication, policy analysis, political theory, qualitative research, science public engagement, facilitation and consensus building.

I have designed and taught 3 postgraduate courses:

  • 'Science, policy and practice: Brokering knowledge in policy contexts', MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement, University of Edinburgh.
  • 'Dialogue and deliberation in public engagement', MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement, University of Edinburgh.
  • 'Engagement for public policy practitioners: Policy work in the age of collaborative governance and participatory democracy', Master of Public Policy, Edinburgh University's Academy of Government

I am currently designing a new Undergraduate Honours course to be taught from January 2016: Public Participation in Democracy and Governance.

I also enjoy developing bespoken training on my areas of research and practice, and I've done so with various public and third sector organisations. For instance, in 2014 I designed and delivered (with Wendy Faulkner) a capacity building programme on participatory budgetting for 3 of Glasgow's Area Partnerships.

Research interests

  • Policy making and policy workers
  • Participation and deliberation in policy making
  • Participatory and deliberative democracy
  • Collaborative governance (e.g. partnerships)
  • Public service reform
  • Democratic innovations (i.e. mini-publics, participatory budgeting)
  • Political communication (i.e. dialogue and deliberation)
  • Facilitation, mediation and consensus building 
  • Community/Public engagement practice and practitioners
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Science & society
  • Emotions in politics and policy


Recent articles, reports and chapters

Durose et al. (2015) Five ways to make a difference: Perceptions of practitioners working in urban neighborhoods, Public Administration Review, Advanced publication online DOI: 10.1111/puar.12502.

Harkins, C. and Escobar, O. (2015) Participatory Budgeting in Scotland: An overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective deliveryGlasgow: Galsgow Centre for Population Health and What Works Scotland.

Roberts, J. and Escobar, O. (2015) Involving communities in deliberation: A study of three citizens’ juries on onshore wind farms in Scotland, Edinburgh: ClimateXChange.

Escobar, O. (2015) Scripting deliberative policy-making: Dramaturgic policy analysis and engagement know-how, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 17(3): 269-285.

Escobar, O. (2015) Reimagining Community Planning in Scotland: A vision from the Third Sector, Glasgow: What Works Scotland.

Escobar, O. (2014) Towards participatory democracy in Scotland, in POST (ed.), Scotland 44: Ideas for a new nation, Edinburgh: POST. Free access online.


Escobar, O., Faulkner, W. and Rea, H. (2014) Building capacity for dialogue facilitation in public engagement around researchJournal of Dialogue Studies, 2(1), 87-111.

Escobar, O. (2014) Upstream public engagement, downstream policy making? The Brain Imaging Dialogue as a community of inquiryScience and Public Policy,  41(4): 480-492.

Roberts, J. and Escobar, O. (2014) Citizens' juries on wind farm development in Scotland: Interim report, Edinburgh: ClimateXChange.

Escobar, O. (2014) Strengthening local democracy in Scotland: The community councils perspective, Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, COSLA.

Escobar, O. (2014) Strengthening local democracy: The Voluntary Action Scotland perspective, Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, COSLA.

Escobar, O. (2014) Strengthening local democracy in Scotland: The faith perspective, Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, COSLA.

Elstub, S. and Escobar, O. (2013) Mini-publics in Scotland, Annex D, Final Report of the Commission on Fair Access to Political Influence, Jimmy Reid Foundation.


Escobar, O. (2013) Commentary: Public engagers and the political craft of participatory policy-makingPublic Administration Review 73(1), pp. 36-7.

Pieczka, M. and Escobar, O. (2013) ‘Dialogue and Science: Innovation in policy making and the discourse of public engagement in UK’Science and Public Policy, 40 (1): 113-126.

Escobar, O. (2012) The politics of dialoguePeople & Science, June, p. 12, British Science Association.

Escobar, O. (2011) Public Dialogue and Deliberation. A communication perspective for public engagement practitioners, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Beltane -UK Beacons for Public Engagement. (REPRINTED IN APRIL 2012)

Wardlaw et al. (2011) “Can It read my mind?” – What do the public and experts think of the current (mis)uses of Neuroimaging? Public Library of Science One,6(10): e25829.

Escobar, O. (2011) ‘Suspending disbelief: Obama and the role of emotions in political communication’. In Engelken-Jorge, M.; Ibarra Gell, P.; Moreno del Río, C. (Eds.) Politics and Emotions: The Obama Phenomenon, pp. 109-128, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

politics and emotionsEscobar, O. (2010) ‘Public engagement in global context. Understanding the UK shift towards dialogue and deliberation’Centre for Dialogue Working Paper 1, Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.

Escobar, O. (2010) ‘Dialogue in Scotland? A forum with communication practitioners’Centre for Dialogue Working Paper 2, Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.

Pieczka, M. and Escobar, O. (2010) ‘The dialogic turn and management fashions’,Proceedings of the International Communication Association Conference, Singapore.

Escobar, O. (2009) ‘The dialogic turn: dialogue for deliberation’, In-spire Journal of Law, Politics and Societies, 4(2), pp.42-70.

Book reviews

Escobar, O. (2012), Rethinking the Public: Innovations in Research, Theory and Politics – Edited by Nick Mahony, Janet Newman and Clive BarnettPolitical Studies Review, 10(2), p. 279.

Escobar, O. (2012), Challenges of Ordinary Democracy: A Case Study in Deliberation and Dissent – By Karen TraceyPolitical Studies Review, 10(2), pp. 282–283.


Current PhD students

Anna RossEpistemic communities and drugs policy in Scotland

Tamara Mulherin, Collaborative work in Health and Social Care Partnerships

Topics interested in supervising

Citizen participation, deliberative democracy, participatory policy-making, collaborative governance, public policy, public services, evidence-based policy-making, knowledge brokering, science public engagement, public dialogue and deliberation.

If you are interested in being supervised by Oliver Escobar, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Politics; PhD in Science and Technology Studies; PhD in Social Policy; MSc (R) Politics; MSc (R) Public Health Policy; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies; MSc (R) Social Policy