Though we may value the democratic right of people to participate more fully in decisions that affect their lives, in practice in many settings decision-making spaces are closed. Decisions are made by a set of actors behind closed doors, without any pretence of broadening the boundaries for inclusion. Closed spaces are where elites such as politicians, bureaucrats, experts, bosses, managers and leaders make decisions with little broad consultation or involvement.
Closed spaces often involve issues like trade, macro economic and finance policies, military policies, etc. which have a great deal of impact on peoples’ lives but which are considered off-limits for public participation. In some societies and countries, especially those with long histories of authoritarian rule, closed spaces can be quite dominant, yet they also exist in strongly in so-called democracies as well. Closed spaces also exist – and often predominate – in workplaces, organizations and social movements, as well in as political institutions.
Strategies to open up closed spaces often focus on greater transparency, rights to information and disclosure and public accountability for what goes on behind closed doors. They also may demand opportunities to have greater voice and to be consulted by other decision makers, or to be at the table with them.