Co-director | Governance and Community Engagement lead
Dr Oliver Escobar is a co-director of What Works Scotland and leads on the Community Engagement workstream.
He leads on the Governance and Community Engagement workstream, and heads up the Participatory Budgeting research strand.
His contribution to What Works Scotland builds on his previous research on collaborative governance and participatory policymaking.
- a member of the Scottish Government Participatory Budgeting Working Group
- a member of the Scottish Government Digital Communications Programme Board
- on the Board of Trustees of Democratic Audit UK
- a Public Engagement Fellow of Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement)
- convener of the Citizen Participation Network
- a trained participation practitioner (International Association for Public Participation).
About Oliver’s research interests
Oliver’s PhD research subject was participatory policy making, with a focus on the everyday work of public engagement practitioners in the context of local democracy in Scotland.
His academic career started in 2002 with a funded research project on the policy-making process of public intervention against poverty and social exclusion in Galicia. Between 2008-2010 he worked at the Dialogue Research Project helping to set up Queen Margaret University’s Centre for Dialogue. From 2010-2013 he was the Project Officer of the Public Policy Network. He was the Project Director for the Citizens’ Juries about Onshore Windfarms research project, funded by ClimateXChange, and has recently facilitated Citizens’ Juries on Health Inequalities.
From November 2013, Oliver has worked on Mixed Methods research and teaching with Prof. Andrew Thompson using data from a large study of the European Commission. He 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.
Oliver contributed to the development of 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 2014, Oliver worked with the COSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, providing evidence and facilitating public engagement.
He also carries out participatory and deliberative projects for the Academy of Government.
What Works Scotland publications
- Hope for democracy: Participatory Budgeting in Scotland (July 2018) Co-authored
- Transforming communities? Exploring the roles of community anchor organisations in public service reform, local democracy, community resilience and social change (May 2018) Co-authored
- Community Planning Officials Survey: Understanding the everyday work of local participatory governance in Scotland (May 2018)
- Urban neighbourhoods: Five ways to make a difference (May 2018)
- Participatory budgeting and health and wellbeing: a systematic scoping review of evaluations and outcomes Published by the Lancet (November 2017) Co-authored
- ‘Hard to reach’ or ‘easy to ignore’? Promoting equality in community engagement – Evidence review (December 2017) – Sponsor
- What Do Citizens Want? (October 2017) – Sponsor
- Fun, Food, Folk: The Centrestage approach to dignified food provision (January 2017) – Co-authored
- Review of First Generation Participatory Budgeting in Scotland (October 2016) – Co-authored
- Third sector participation and representation in East Lothian (September 2016) – Co-authored
- Participatory budgeting in Scotland: an overview of design choices and principles (December 2015) – Co-authored
- Reimagining Community Planning in Scotland: A Vision from the Third Sector (August 2015)
- Changing Lives, Delivering Success (June 2015) – Co-authored
What Works Scotland blog posts
- Facilitative Leadership: Involving citizens and communities in local decision-making (May 2017)
- Beyond cynicism and complacency: Participatory budgeting in Scotland (February 2015)
External blog posts, articles and interviews
LGiU Scotland: 15 minutes with… Oliver Escobar on Participatory Democracy
Escobar: no hay apatía ciudadana sino exigencias nuevas de participación
In this interview with UNIR – International University of La Rioja – Oliver talks (in Spanish) about What Works Scotland’s focus on public sector reform, and his work with participatory democracy, the Smart Urban Intermediaries project and Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning (DRILL).
Watch the interview on YouTube
- Pluralism and Democratic Participation: What Kind of Citizen are Citizens Invited to be? – published in Contemporary Pragmatism, Volume 14, Issue 4. 2017
- The impact of participatory budgeting on health and wellbeing: a scoping review of evaluations – a co-authored study published on BMC Public Health
See more about Oliver and his work on the University of Edinburgh Politics and International Relations website.