Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
14 January 2022

New Podcast series: Constitutions for democracy

Find out why and how citizens are being involved in the designing of constitutions worldwide today.

Constitutions are in theory expected to incarnate the will of the people but with few exceptions citizens have scant opportunities to directly influence them. In practice, new constitutions have been more frequently observed in exceptional, disruptive contexts such as decolonization processes, military coups or transitions. In contrast, the elaboration of new constitutions in stable and consolidated democracies has been uncommon. However, nowadays in Europe and across the world, several countries –Chile as an outstanding case– are turning to deliberative democracy to reform their constitutions, and in many others this question is high on the political and or social agenda. Such transformation also shuffles quite radically the role of the citizenry regarding constitutional changes. Traditionally such changes were the sole responsibility of elected officials, in collaboration with experts. With the deliberative turn, many more actors may be involved in the designing of constitutions: citizens both individually and collectively in the forms of informal associations, social movements, civil society organisations, participatory consultants and research teams.

The aim of the COST Action ‘Constitution-making and deliberative democracy’ (CA17135) (supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme) is to bring together all these actors – who are usually not in contact – to discuss and reflect on this democratic challenge, not only in terms of normative ideals but also and above all on the empirical challenges raised by this complex and multi-faceted democratic transformation. Funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, this action is vice-chaired by AHCD Research Fellow Yanina Welp and gathers researchers from 39 countries (see here more about the initiative). Our new podcast series Constitutions for Democracy, launched in the context of this project  and  supported by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, seeks to reinforce the action’s outcomes by producing a podcast for a more general public. 

The five episodes in the series Constitutions for Democracy are conducted by Yanina Welp and explore the topic of constitutional decision-making and citizen’s participation. Although stand-alone episodes, they have been designed to act as complementary units, making references to each other for continuity. There is a global claim for more participation connected to a general crisis of democracy. However, participation per se could not offer a solution and in some circumstances could even produce worse results than the expected.


  • Episode 1: Does a constitution-making process need to be deliberative?
  • Episode 2: Participatory authoritarianism?
  • Episode 3: Why is it so difficult to change constitutions?
  • Episode 4Citizen's assemblies for constitution making?
  • Episode 5: The role of ICTs for democratic constitution making