- Dr Oliver Escobar
- Senior Lecturer in Public Policy
- 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, facilitation and mediation, participation practitioners, policy work and policy workers, democratic innovations, Interpretive Policy Analysis, political ethnography, Mixed methods, in/equalities, participatory and deliberative methodologies, smart cities, urban labs, social innovation
Guidance and Feedback Hours
- Mondays 11-1 during term time, or by appointment
Co-Director of What Works Scotland
At the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain):
- 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)
At the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK):
Current and past work
I am Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh (Politics and IR), and Co-Director of What Works Scotland, a programme to connect research, policy and practice, improve public services and advance policy innovation. I lead the WWS workstream on Governance and Community Engagement.
Current research projects:
- 13 projects in the What Works Scotland programme (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Scottish Government)
- Distant Voices: Coming Home (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council)
- Smart Urban Intermediaries: Trans-European Research, Learning and Action (H2020 / JPI ERA-NET Consortium Urban Europe, incl. ESRC)
Current advisory roles:
- Democratic Audit UK (Board of Trustees, since 2014)
- Scottish Government's Participatory Budgeting Working Group (since 2014)
- National Advisory Group, DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning, since 2015)
- Scottish Government Digital Communications Board ( since 2016)
- Public Square (since 2018)
- Open Government Partnership (since 2019)
I received a 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 public policy to tackle poverty and social exclusion in Galicia (Spain). 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’ funded by ClimateXChange, and recently facilitated a series of Citizens' Juries on Tackling Health Inequalities and helped to develop other deliberative mini-publics.
Since 2014, 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, which formed the foundation for our current Smart Urban Intermediaries project.
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 collaboration with the Scottish Community Development Centre, we re-launched the National Standards for Community Engagement (2016) to support the implementation of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
I carry out participatory and deliberative projects with a range of public and third sector organisations. 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.
Besides academia, I worked as seasonal labourer in the construction and fishing industries (1999-2005). I also worked in retail management (2005-2008) and radio broadcasting (2008-2009), with some incursions into amateur photography and short filming. Since 1995, I have published various literary works and 3 poetry books, including the bilingual Galician Rhapsody, Blues Escocés.
See my blog HERE.
Teaching and Training
I have designed undergraduate and postgraduate couses, as well as practitioner training workshops, on dialogue and deliberation, citizen participation, political communication, policy analysis, political theory, qualitative research, science public engagement and facilitation.
Currently I convene and teach:
- Public participation in democracy and governance (Undergraduate course)
- Public engagement in policymaking and govenance (Postgraduate course)
From 2012 to 2015 I convened and taught 3 postgraduate courses:
- 'Science, policy and practice: Brokering knowledge in policy contexts' and '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 enjoy developing bespoke training with various public and third sector organisations. For instance, in 2014 I designed and delivered (with Wendy Faulkner) a capacity building programme on participatory budgeting for 3 of Glasgow's Area Partnerships.
Anna Ross, Epistemic communities and drugs policy in Scotland
Tamara Mulherin, Collaborative work in Health and Social Care Partnerships
Giulia Molinengo, Power in collaboration: a process design perspective (IASS Potsdam, Germany)
Sofiane Sahnoun, The Prevent programme in England
Beth Katz, Local opportunity windows in hostile national political environments: Exploring the interplay between national and local immigrant integration politics in the Brexit and Trump eras
Max Rozenburg, Legitimacy and the governance of the commons
Dena Arya, Youth politics, participation and identity in austerity Britain
Meng Yang, Democratic innovations in China ( 2016-17)
Taina Meriluoto, Expertise and experience in participatory social policy (2017)
- Participatory and deliberative democracy
- Democratic innovations (i.e. mini-publics, participatory budgeting, digital)
- The social and urban commons
- Policymaking and policy workers
- Governance (i.e. collaborative, participatory, etc)
- Public service reform
- Political communication (i.e. dialogue and deliberation)
- Facilitation and mediation practices
- Community/Public engagement practice and practitioners
- Science & society
- Emotions in politics and policy
Recent articles, reports and chapters
Elstub, S. and Escobar, O. (Eds.) (forthcoming) The Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar.
Cullingworth, J. and O. Escobar. (2019) Participation and representation: Strengthening the third sector voice in local governance. Glasgow: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O. and Katz, B. (2018) Mainstreaming participatory budgeting: What works in building foundations for a more participatory democracy? Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O. (2018) Participar, para qué?, en Participación social en un mundo en cambio, Nueva Revista de Política, Cultura y Arte, Serie Estudios núm 2, páginas 35-42, Madrid: UNIR.
Weakley, S. and Escobar, O. (2018) Community Planning after the Community Empowerment Act: The Second Survey of Community Planning Officials in Scotland, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Campbell, M., O. Escobar, C. Fenton, & P. Craig (2018) 'The impact of participatory budgeting on health and wellbeing: A scoping review of evaluations', BMC Public Health, 18, 822.
Escobar, O., F. Garven, C. Harkins, K. Glazik, S. Cameron, & A. Stoddart (2018) 'Participatory budgeting in Scotland: The interplay of public service reform, community empowerment and social justice', in N. Dias (Ed.), Hope for democracy: 30 years of participatory budgeting worldwide, Faro, Portugal: Oficina, pp. 311-336.
Bua, A. and Escobar, O. (2018) Participatory-Deliberative Processes and Public Policy Agendas: Lessons for Policy and Practice, Policy Design and Practice, first published online (Open Access).
Henderson, J., Revell, P. and Escobar, O. (2018) Transforming communities? Exploring the roles of community anchor organisations in public service reform, local democracy, community resilience and social change, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O., Gibb, K., Kandlik Eltanani, M. and Weakley, S. (2018) Community Planning Officials Survey: Understanding the everyday work of local participatory governance in Scotland, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O., Gibb, K., Kandlik Eltanani, M. and Weakley, S. (2018) Brief: Summary - Community Planning Officials Survey, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Campbell, M., P. Craig, & Escobar, O. (2017) Participatory budgeting and health and wellbeing: A systematic scoping review of evaluations and outcomes, The Lancet, 390(S30). [Published Abstract]
Escobar, O. (2017) Pluralism and democratic participation: What kind of citizen are citizens invited to be?, Contemporary Pragmatism, 14(4): 416-438.
Escobar, O. and Elstub (2017) Forms of mini-publics: An introduction to deliberative innovations in democratic practice, Research and Development Notes, newDEMOCRACY.
Escobar, O. (2017) Making it official: Participation professionals and the challenge of institutionalizing deliberative democracy, in Bherer, L., Gauthier , M. & Simard, L. (eds.) The Professionalization of Public Participation, Routledge.
Escobar, O. (2017) What Works in Participatory Budgeting: Taking stock and thinking ahead, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Nugent, B. and Escobar, O. (2017) Fun, Food and Folk - The Centrestage approach to dignified food provision, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O. and Elstub, S. (2017) Deliberative innovations: Using ‘mini-publics’ to improve participation and deliberation at the Scottish Parliament, prepared for the Scottish Parliament Commission on Parliamentary Reform.
Harkins, C., Moore, K. and Escobar, O. (2016) Review of 1st Generation Participatory Budgeting in Scotland, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.
Escobar, O. (2016) Response: Beyond anti-politics through democratic innovation, Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy, 24(2): 20-24.
Escobar, O. (2016) Strategic Futures: In 2020, the UK will..., Global Brief, Summer Edition.
Durose et al. (2016) Five ways to make a difference: Perceptions of practitioners working in urban neighborhoods, Public Administration Review, 76(4): 576-586.
Harkins, C. and Escobar, O. (2015) Participatory Budgeting in Scotland: An overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective delivery, Glasgow: Glasgow 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.
Escobar, O., Faulkner, W. and Rea, H. (2014) Building capacity for dialogue facilitation in public engagement around research, Journal of Dialogue Studies, 2(1), 87-111.
Escobar, O. (2014) Upstream public engagement, downstream policy making? The Brain Imaging Dialogue as a community of inquiry, Science 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-making, Public Administration Review 73(1), pp. 36-7.
Escobar, O. (2012) The politics of dialogue, People & 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.
Escobar, 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.
Escobar, O. (2012), Rethinking the Public: Innovations in Research, Theory and Politics – Edited by Nick Mahony, Janet Newman and Clive Barnett. Political Studies Review, 10(2), p. 279.
Escobar, O. (2012), Challenges of Ordinary Democracy: A Case Study in Deliberation and Dissent – By Karen Tracey. Political Studies Review, 10(2), pp. 282–283.
Topics interested in supervising
Citizen participation, participatory and deliberative democracy, policymaking, governance, public policy, public services, evidence-based policymaking, knowledge brokering, science public engagement, public dialogue and deliberation, political communication.
If you are interested in being supervised by Oliver Escobar, please see the links below for more information: