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Deliverable 2.4: Factors influencing participation: Opportunities and barriers for active subsidiarity in just sustainability transition policies

The DUST project aims to rethink sustainability transitions across European regions by fostering proactive citizen engagement. Through innovative participatory tools and digital platforms, DUST addresses the democratic challenge of amplifying the voices of citizens, who are excluded from policy shaping, particularly in regions transitioning away from energy-intensive industries. Within the project's framework, Work Package 2 (WP2) focuses on evaluating the democratic quality of citizen participation in place-based policies for just sustainability transitions. This entails developing tools to assess stakeholder engagement across eight DUST study regions, identifying barriers faced by marginalized groups, and visualizing participation networks within these multi-level policies.

This deliverable has two key objectives. First, it synthesizes the findings of early DUST tasks, which used tools to measure and assess participation in transition policy actions. Second, it identifies trends in participation factors that can activate active subsidiarity principles in just sustainability transition policies. Policy-relevant results will be summarized in a policy briefing on opportunities and barriers for active subsidiarity. Scientific results underlying this report will be further considered in the DUST D3.4 ‘Civic participation of least engaged communities in just sustainability transition initiatives: Scope, depth and determining factors’, which synthesizes the results of quantitative and qualitative research performed in the DUST WP2 and 3.

Opportunities for active subsidiarity within policy-making processes lie in the effective utilization of participatory methods, including co-production, co-creation, and dynamic participatory instruments. Regions that strategically integrate these methods and align participatory structures with decision-making arenas are poised to cultivate active subsidiarity. Moreover, enhancing active subsidiarity involves acknowledging communities' willingness and capacity to participate, thereby tailoring communication and capacity-building initiatives to region-specific characteristics. Nevertheless, barriers persist in the pursuit of active subsidiarity. The emphasis on formal stakeholders may inadvertently sideline vulnerable groups, limiting their participation. Similarly, the unequal distribution of decision-making power can hinder citizens from engaging in subsequent policy-making stages. Furthermore, entrenched 'top-down' dynamics in place-based measures impede bottom-up interaction, jeopardizing participation in subsequent implementation phases.

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