Oliver Escobar

I am a Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh (Politics and IR) and Co-Director  of  What Works Scotland, an ESRC/Scottish Government funded program to connect research, policy and practice on public service reform and policy innovation. My contribution to WWS builds on my previous work on collaborative governance and participatory policy-making.

I was the Project Director for the ‘Citizen Juries about Onshore Wind Farms’ research project, funded by ClimateXChange and the University of Edinburgh. I’ve also worked on Mixed Methods research and teaching with Andy Thompson using data from the largest study of the European Commission to date. Building on previous experience as a Project Officer for the Public Policy Network (2010-2013), I carry out participatory and deliberative projects for The Academy of Government.

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. I am also the convener of the Citizen Participation Network, and a trained participation practitioner (IAP2). I am a Steward of So Say Scotland, a hub for participatory politics and democratic innovation, and a contributor to the Electoral Reform Society’s deliberative process: “Democracy Max -An Inquiry into the Future of Scottish Democracy”. In November 2014 I was appointed as Trustee of Democratic Audit UK.


I trained as a political scientist at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia/Spain): Master´s Degree in Political Science and Public Administration (1997-2002); MSc in Public Management (2003); MPhil in Policy Making Processes (2002-2004).

I received my PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh, where I held a Principal’s Career Development PhD Scholarship. My mentors were Richard Freeman and Andy Thompson, and my  core 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 the policy making process of public intervention against poverty and social exclusion in Galicia. 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 (Media, Communication and Sociology, Queen Margaret University) helping to set up QMU’s Centre for Dialogue.

Besides academia, my first jobs were as a labourer in the construction and fishing industries. I have also worked in management and radio broadcasting, done  amateur photography and short filming, and published 3 poetry books and a number of literary works.

Teaching and Training

I have given lectures and workshops on dialogue and deliberation, citizen participation, political communication, policy analysis, political theory, qualitative research, science public engagement, facilitation skills, and social poetry.

I have designed and taught 3 postgraduate courses:

  • ‘Science, policy and practice: Brokering knowledge in policy contexts’, MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement, University of Edinburgh.
  • ‘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

In 2015-16 I am designing and teaching a brand new undergraduate course: Public participation in democracy and governance.

I also enjoy designing and delivering bespoken training on my areas of research and practice, and I’ve done so with various public and third sector organisations.

Research interests

  • Policy as practice
  • Participation and deliberation in policy making
  • Democratic innovation: Mini-publics and Participatory Budgeting
  • Community/Public engagement practice and practitioners
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Science and society
  • Emotions in politics and policy (the affective turn)
  • Communication; dialogue and deliberation


Public Dialogue and Deliberation

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-making, 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

11 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.

      • Oliver–I downloaded your document and am about ten pages in. It is wonderful stuff and very, very practical. I was impressed with your introduction of inter-subjectivity and the examples you cite. Really terrific writing. I look forward to reading more. Kirk

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