Using Barcelona as a case study, this article examines the relationship between local governance and local democracy. It begins with the terms of the debate and continues by identifying the context in which a particular model of governance arose in Barcelona. The article then looks at the extent to which governance fosters democracy, by strengthening the role of civil society organisations in government and creating new spaces of deliberation between the state and the citizenry. The final section examines the limitations of Barcelona's model of local governance in enhancing local democracy. The key finding is that the predominant role of the local council in facilitating citizen participation has as many strengths as it has weaknesses. In short when participation becomes public policy it becomes a double-edged sword.