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Global civil society participation is a theme that has gained importance during the last twenty years: New global orders, issues which span the globe, new technological developments and new actors who have entered the global sphere of political decision making call for new concepts of analysis. In global spheres representative democracy is not the exclusive, dominant and agreed-upon model of political order. Yet, the increasing number and new forms of participation are issues of growing importance – including those offered by states but also those of actors challenging state authorities. Therefore the special issue brings together research from the areas of public participation and social movement studies dealing with global civil society participation that includes also translocal, transregional or transnational phenomena. Experimentations with democratic innovations which emerge as accumulations of single and often isolated events, initiatives and movements of citizen and civil society organisations participation can be observed. As such forms of global political participation linked to various policy issues changing and shaping the landscape of global governance become a research object in its own right. The focus on global phenomena has gained high importance in the two research areas that we bring together in the special issue (public participation and social movement research) and which fruitfully complement each other regarding their research objects and analytical lenses to grasp the heterogeneous participation landscape along its empirical patterns. The contributions critically reflect upon three important aspects of recent global participation: (1) global diffusion of paradigms and models of participation, (2) new forms of organizing global constituencies of a global public and (3) challenges for democratic legitimacy in global contexts through participatory innovations.