Oliver Escobar

I have been at the University of Edinburgh since 2010, and I am currently Senior Lecturer in Public Policy in the Politics and International Relations subject area of the School of Social and Political Science. See my university profile HERE.

Other current positions

(2019- ) Academic Lead for Democratic Innovation at Edinburgh Futures Institute

(2017-2020) UK Principal Investigator for Smart Urban Intermediaries: Trans-European Research, Learning and Action

(2017-2020) Co-Investigator of Distant Voices: Coming Home

(2015-2019) Co-Director of What Works Scotland

What Works Scotland is a programme to connect research, policy and practice,  improve public services and advance policy innovation. I lead the WWS workstreams on Governance and Community Engagement. Building on this work, in 2019 I was appointed Academic Lead for Democratic Innovation at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (University of Edinburgh). I am currently co-developing the research programme about the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland.

Recent advisory roles:

  • Democratic Audit UK (Board of Trustees, since 2014)
  • Participatory Budgeting Working Group (since 2014)
  • National Advisory Group, DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning, since 2015)
  • 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.

Since 2014, I have worked on mixed methods research and teaching with Prof. Andrew Thompson using data from a 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.

Demo Max

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.

I also carry out participatory and deliberative projects for the Academy of Government. 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.

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:

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 bespoken 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.

Research interests

  • Participatory and deliberative democracy
  • Democratic innovations (i.e. mini-publics, participatory budgeting, digital)
  • Open government
  • Policymaking and policy workers
  • Participation and deliberation in policy making
  • Collaborative governance (e.g. partnerships)
  • Public service reform
  • Political communication (i.e. dialogue and deliberation)
  • Facilitation, mediation and consensus building
  • Community/Public engagement practice and practitioners
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Science & society
  • Emotions in politics and policy


Elstub, S. and Escobar, O. (Eds.) (2019). The Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar.

Urie, A. et al. (2019) Reintegration, hospitality and hostility: Song-writing and song-sharing in criminal justice, Journal of Extreme Anthropology (online first).

Watson, N. and O. Escobar, on behalf of WWS (2019) Key messages about public service reform in Scotland, Final Report, Edinburgh and Glasgow: What Works Scotland.

Paterson, A., Nelis, P. and O. Escobar (2019) Strengthening Community Councils: Exploring how they can contribute to democratic renewal in Scotland, Glasgow: Scottish Community Development Centre and What Works Scotland.

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 PracticePolicy 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 ParticipationRoutledge.

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.

Escobar, O. (2017) What Works in Participatory Budgeting: Taking stock and thinking ahead, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.

Harkins, C., Moore, K. and Escobar, O. (2016) Review of 1st Generation Participatory Budgeting in Scotland, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.

WWS Review PB

Escobar (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. (2015) Five ways to make a difference: Perceptions of practitioners working in urban neighborhoods, Public Administration Review, Advanced publication online DOI: 10.1111/puar.12502.

Harkins, C. and Escobar, O. (2015) Participatory Budgeting in Scotland: An overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective delivery, Glasgow: Galsgow 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, chapter in POST (ed.), Scotland 44: Ideas for a new nation, Edinburgh: POST. Free access online.

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.

Escobar, O. (2013) Commentary: Public engagers and the political craft of participatory policy-makinPublic Dialogue and Deliberationg, Public Administration Review 73(1), pp. 36-7.

Pieczka, M. and Escobar, O. (2013) ‘Dialogue and Science: Innovation in policy making and the discourse of public engagement in UK’, Science and Public Policy, 40 (1): 113-126.

Escobar, O. (2012) ‘Desired and unwanted: Policy work by participation practitioners’, IPSA World Congress of Political Science, Madrid; and Interpretive Policy Analysis Conference, Tilburg.

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)

Escobar, O. (2011) ‘Science, deliberation and policy making: The Brain Imaging Dialogue as upstream public engagement’, 6th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research,  August 2011, Reykjavik.

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.

BoD_B1-Engelken-Jorge_18120-2-12=EEscobar, 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. (2011) ‘The work of participation: local deliberative policy making as mediated by public engagement practitioners, 61st Conference of the Political Studies Association, April 2011, London.

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 Engagers: The professionalisation of science public engagement in Scotland’, Science and The Public Conference, Imperial College and Science Museum, July 2010, London.

Piezcka, M. and Escobar, O. (2010) ‘Dialogue: Innovation in policy making and the discourse of engagement’, Proceedings of the 60th Conference of the Political Studies Association, Edinburgh.

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. (2009) ‘El giro dialógico: diálogo y deliberación’, IX Congreso de la Asociación Española de Ciencia Política, Málaga.

Escobar, O. (2004) Do substantivo ao simbólico: Unha análise da elaboración política da Renda de Integración Social Galega (RISGA), DEA Minor Thesis , Universidade de Santiago de Compostela [unpublished].

Escobar, O. (2004) ‘As falacias da política social en Galicia’, Novas da Galiza, 24, pp. 1-11.

Escobar, O.; Paleo, N; and Sánchez, L. (2001) ‘A construccion social do poder nos filmes: As uvas da ira, Sendeiros de gloria, Dr. Strangelove, e Gandhi’, Grupo Compostela de Estudio sobre Imaginarios Sociales, Papeles de Trabajo, 2, pp.1-22.

Book Reviews

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.

Reports and Commentary

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. (2012) The politics of dialogue, People & Science, June, p. 12, British Science Association.

Escobar, O. (2012) ‘Dialogic pluralism: from participatory to deliberative democracy’, Blog Beyond Diversity: Re-situating Pluralism, 4 August.

Escobar, O. (2010) ‘Notes on public engagement and policy making’, in Brain Imaging and its Impact on Society, pp. 16-17, Glasgow: Scottish Universities Insight Institute.

Escobar, O. (2010) ‘At the crossroads: The Science and the Public Conference 2010’, Short report for Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement).

Escobar, O. (2009) A consultation in Brussels- EU Research & Development: Share today to win tomorrow. 3 December 2009, Scotland House, Brussels: Interim report for Edinburgh Beltane (BFPE).

Escobar, O. (2009) ‘Evaluation of communication dynamics in the policy making process of the MHPSN Stewarding Group in Johannesburg’, Interim report for the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network.

Escobar, O. (2009) ‘A journey into Public Dialogue: Sciencewise Research Workshops’, Short report for Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement).

Non-academic literature

Selection of poetry books:

Escobar, O. (2009) Galician rhapsody, blues escocés, Cangas: University of Stirling and Morgante.

Escobar, O. (2006) Apostasía , Santiago de Compostela: Edicions Positivas.

Escobar, O. (2004) A última bengala, Ferrol: Colección Esquío.

Short-film scripts: 

‘Hard of hearing’ (2009), ‘The road ahead’ (2010), and ‘A bagpipe in the sea’ (2011).





INTERACT oliver.escobar@ed.ac.uk

14 thoughts on “Oliver Escobar

  1. I stumbled on your blog and I’m interested in how you are using dialogue. I’ve been looking at dialogue from a philosophical perspective with Buber and Levinas.

    • Hi Kirk, thanks for your comment. Yes, Buber and Levinas are really inspiring -although I’m more familiar with Buber. Otherwise I come to this from a background in political science and policy studies, so in general I’ve worked on hybrid forums where we have tried to combine dialogue and deliberation in community, policy or university contexts.
      I’ve tried to outline my approach here: http://www.academia.edu/1131712/Public_Dialogue_and_Deliberation_A_Communication_Perspective_for_Public_Engagement_Practitioners

      would love to get some feedback on it and to know a bit more about your work

      take care

      • Thanks for your reply! I’m trying to write a book about dialogue and conversation and how it sparks so much good. Thanks for the link to your approach-I’ll give it a read. People seem to have limited interest in the notion, which is too bad. I hope to help people see the amazing things that happen when we talk together.

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