Representation is the action of speaking or acting on behalf of a sub-population, it can be examined along four dimensions: 

  1. who is doing the representing (representative),
  2. by what means they are authorized to represent and to what kind of sanctions they will be subjected (appointment, mandate),
  3. who is represented (constituency, electorate),
  4. and the congruence between the representative's actions and the will of the represented (community preferences, programme, campaign promises). [1]
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Notes on Representation

On quantitative vs. qualitative representation in participatory spaces for decision making [2]

Understanding the difference between quantitative and qualitative representation:

  • Quantitative representativeness is achieved if the frequency of prespecified characteristics within the general population is sufficiebly represented within the participant sample. By creating a statistically quantitative sample of the population at large, often through random sampling, a certain level of "external validity" of results can be achieved. The prespecified characteristics are usually demographic in nature, i.e. information that can be obtained through a population reistend, tend to be static (ethnicity, gender, etc.), and therefore easily verifiable in terms of their frequency within the population. 
  • Qualitative representativeness is achieved by guaranteeing the occurrence of prespecified characteristics within the sample even if these characteristics are not represented by the same frequency as in the general population. The underlying assumption is that these characteristics should be given more weight because they are relevant for the objective, or reason for selecting participants.
  • Therefore, the aim with qualitative representation is to achieve a qualitative diversity of participants relevant to the participatory space objective instead of a quantitative proportionality often achieved by random sampling with access to population-level data [3,4,5,6](9, 21, 23, 26).

On representativeness and autonomy [1]

Political representation has a constitutive duality at its centre. The simple existence of representation does not guarantee representativeness or necessarily its correspondence to the will of those being represented. The strength of representativeness, in turn, cannot be accomplished by removing the autonomy of the representative. This essential duality – between representativeness and autonomy – can be seen in the different developments which have dominated the political and intellectual history of political representation in the modern world, as a rule in the form of oppositions. Thus the autonomy of the representative versus the mandate of those represented, the legal institutional component versus the substantive component or that of will-formation, the fiduciary component versus the authorisation component, national versus popular sovereignty, without forgetting of course, the more general conflict of legality versus legitimacy.25 As Sartori [7] and Pitkin [8](1967) have meticulously demonstrated, however, maintaining analytically only one of the two poles in this duality is the quickest way to empty out political representation of its meaning – it either loses its substantive meaning of acting in the interests or on behalf of those represented, or it loses its political nature as institutional crystallisation for governing society.

On the Congruence Model [1]

The Congruence Model is the most influential approach in empirical analysis of political representation carried out in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly in the field of political science [9]. As implied by its title, the model posits that evaluating representation can be set out in terms of greater or lesser congruence – representativeness – between the behaviour of the elected representatives and their electorate, where the behaviour of the former is verifiable by means of the production of legislated political policies, whilst the preferences of the latter are condensed into electoral results or in opinion surveys. Despite the criticisms against the model over the years, the essence of the concept of congruence seems indisputable without threatening the basis of political representation itself. The congruence model also has been used to analyse the representativeness of governments in relation to their parties

[1]Lavalle A. G., Houtzager P. P., and Castello G. In whose name? Political representation and civil organisations in Brazil. IDS Working Paper 249. 2005

[2] Voice, agency, empowerment - handbook on social participation for universal health coverage. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

[3] Boivin A, Lehoux P, Burgers J, Grol R. What are the key ingredients for effective public involvement in health care improvement and policy decisions? A randomized trial process evaluation. Milbank Q. 2014;92(2):319-50.

[4] Hainz T, Bossert S, Strech D. Collective agency and theconcept of ‘public’ in public involvement: A practice-oriented analysis. BMC medical ethics. 2016;17(1):1.

[5] Hainz T, Strech D. Which public to involve? More reflection on collective agency and sufficient representativeness is needed. The American Journal of Bioethics. 2014;14(6):31-3.

[6] Nathan S, Braithwaite J, Stephenson N. The scope and impact of community participation: The views of communityrepresentatives in an Australian health service. Journal of health organization and management. 2014;28(3):405-21.

[7] Sartori, G. A teoria da representação no Estado Representativo moderno’. Minas Gerais, Revista Brasileira de Estudos Políticos. 1962

[8] Pitkin, F.H. Representation. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1967

[9] Campilongo, F.C. Representação Política, São Paulo: Ática. 1988