Moving Toward More Inclusive Government Communication in an Era of Superdiversity

Published date01 November 2023
AuthorWarda Belabas
Date01 November 2023
Subject MatterPerspectives
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(10) 1952 –1973
© The Author(s) 2023
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DOI: 10.1177/00953997231190570
Moving Toward More
Inclusive Government
Communication in an
Era of Superdiversity
Warda Belabas1
Going beyond the practical obstacles of and facilitators for inclusive
government communication, this study stresses the underlying tension
between democratic and bureaucratic values in administrative structures and
its implication for inclusive communication. The clash between on the one
hand efficiency, market-driven patterns, and impartiality and on the other
hand individual rights, advocating equal rights and social justice shows that
in coming to terms with the reality of superdiverse societies governments
need to reconcile these values on the level of actual decision-making and
behavior by public communication practitioners.
intercultural communication, diverse publics, governments, public sector
communication, migration-related diversity
As practices of living with migration-related diversity have become the norm
in everyday life (Meissner, 2015), governments face the challenge of
developing policies that address the issues of integration and social cohesion.
1Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Warda Belabas, Department of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus University
Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan 52, Rotterdam 3000 DR, The Netherlands.
1190570AAS0010.1177/00953997231190570Administration & SocietyBelabas
Belabas 1953
Consequently, numerous studies have explored the question of how to deliver
public services to migrants, particularly in policy areas such as health ser-
vices, education, and social services (e.g., Dryden-Peterson, 2010; Edward &
Hines-Martin, 2015; Seeleman et al., 2015). Other studies have examined the
necessity of adapting representative democracy to the multiple and complex
identities in diverse societies (Guidikova, 2015). Yet another part of public
administration research has focused on the impact of diversity on organiza-
tional outcomes, including performance, turnover, and the management of
diversity within employee-employer relationships (e.g., Compton & Meier,
2016; Pitts & Jarry, 2009).
However, the diversification of society also has implications for how gov-
ernments communicate with their citizens. Given that many cities now host a
great diversity of minority communities, it is crucial to understand and iden-
tify their specific information and communication needs in order to develop
community-centered and culturally sensitive communication strategies to
respond to those needs, and at the same time, “to prevent and mitigate the
effects of stigmatization” (Vanhamel et al., 2021, p. 2). Communication is an
essential task for governments in modern representative democracies. It is
necessary to create an information environment that allows citizens to learn
about the issues in society that affect them, to understand the actions of gov-
ernment officials, and to express their views to these officials (Carpini, 2004).
Only a limited number of studies, however, have explicitly focused on public
communications by governments in the context of societies that are increas-
ingly affected by migration. This is remarkable, considering that public com-
munication is one of the most important government functions (Liu, Horsley
& Yang, 2012). As the population becomes ever more diverse and fragmented,
an important question emerges: How can governments ensure that they com-
municate with these diverse publics in ways that are both inclusive and effec-
tive? This question becomes even more relevant when we consider the issues
of representative participation and the inclusion of citizens from a variety of
social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds in all kinds of democratic renewal
programs and projects (Bleich et al., 2015; Waylen, 2015). This is particularly
important in these times of increasing polarization among citizens and between
citizens and governmental and political institutions (Dixit & Weibull, 2007).
This topic is central to the concept of the democratic ethos, which refers to the
fundamental capacity of governments to encourage knowledge and participa-
tion among different groups and to foster what Nabatchi (2010) calls “the
increase of citizen comprehension of and appreciation for the humanistic
imperatives of democracy” (p. 381). In order to facilitate intelligent and effec-
tive citizen participation and inclusion (Wildavsky, 1979), I argue that govern-
ments must reevaluate their communication practices in this era of

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