GV4K1      Half Unit
Opening Government: Transparency, Accountability, and Participation

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Daniel Berliner


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Political Science and Political Economy, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Public Policy and Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high.

This course is capped at 3 groups.

Course content

Is “sunlight the best disinfectant”? Can information empower citizens to hold their government accountable? Can greater public participation and deliberation improve policymaking? How have information technologies been used to enable civic engagement? What are the relationships between transparency, participation, accountability, and corruption?

This course will familiarise students with the theory and practice of transparency, accountability, and public participation in government; enabling them to critically address these questions and engage meaningfully in fast-moving contemporary policy debates. Policy innovations based on transparency, participation, and deliberation are increasingly suggested as potential solutions to contemporary crises of government legitimacy and performance, making such critical understanding more crucial than ever.

The course will offer a grounding in theories of democracy, representation, and accountability, as well as debates over the merits of different types of policy innovations that are often called “open government” or “democratic innovations.” The course will also enable students to evaluate the role played by different forms of information in political systems, as well as to critically assess the theories of change, assumptions, and evidence bases behind these initiatives.

The course has a global scope, focusing on applications in both developed and developing countries as well as at a global level; and on policy types including freedom of information, disclosure-based regulation, participatory budgeting, citizens’ assemblies, crowdsourced policymaking, “civic tech,” open data, campaign finance and asset disclosures, and applications of transparency and participation to sectors like extractive industries, the environment, and public health.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours in the Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one formative essay of 1,000 words in the LT.

Indicative reading

  • Fung, Archon, and Erik Olin Wright. 2001. “Deepening democracy: Innovations in empowered participatory governance.” Politics & Society 29(1): 5-41.
  • Fox, Jonathan A. "Social accountability: what does the evidence really say?" World Development 72 (2015): 346-361.
  • Stasavage, David. 2004. “Open-door or closed-door? Transparency in domestic and international bargaining.” International Organization 58(4): 667-703.
  • Tan, Yeling. 2014. "Transparency without democracy: The unexpected effects of China's environmental disclosure policy." Governance 27(1): 37-62.
  • Berliner, Daniel, 2014. “The political origins of transparency.” The Journal of Politics, 76(2), 479-491.
  • Gonçalves, Sónia. "The effects of participatory budgeting on municipal expenditures and infant mortality in Brazil." World Development 53 (2014): 94-110.
  • Worthy, Ben. 2015. “The impact of open data in the UK: Complex, unpredictable, and political.” Public Administration, 93(3), 788-805.
  • De Fine Licht, Jenny, Daniel Naurin, Peter Esaiasson, and Mikael Gilljam. 2014. “When does transparency generate legitimacy? Experimenting on a context bound relationship.” Governance 27(1): 111-134.
  • Farrell, David M., and Jane Suiter. 2019. Reimagining Democracy: Lessons in Deliberative Democracy from the Irish Front Line. Cornell University Press.
  • Hale, Thomas. 2008. “Transparency, accountability, and global governance.” Global Governance 14: 73.


Essay (90%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

The essay component will be a research essay of 3000 words, due in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2020/21: 31

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills