Democracy is always in the making: a never-ending project that requires constant rethinking and development. There are many ways of understanding and practicing democracy, and this article is concerned with those that put citizens at the heart of democratic life.
We need politics to mean more than party politics, elections and media rituals; and democracy to mean more than representative democracy. Reclaiming and recasting politics and democracy is a core challenge for participatory democrats. The key argument is that citizen participation can reinvigorate democratic life by infusing diversity, experience and knowledge into institutional decision making. The question is what kind of participation.
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By Oliver Escobar, with photos from Emilio Pérez.Published by Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement).Free PDF HERE.
The rhetoric of dialogue and deliberation is sometimes adopted rather uncritically in academic, organisational, and policy circles. Too often that rhetoric is deployed with little understanding of the variety of principles and practices enacted in dialogic and/or deliberative communication. How can dialogue and deliberation be conceptualized and distinguished from other forms of communication? What does it take to facilitate these forms of communication in practice? What ideas about democracy underpin them? What kind of changes in academic, popular and policy-making cultures does it call for?
This booklet seeks to speak to people involved in creating public forums for meaningful conversations. In particular, I’ve taken as imaginary readers those practitioners and students that I’ve had the fortune to work with. If, with pragmatist and deliberative thinkers, we agree that communication is the very fabric of democratic life, then analysing and improving the quality of communication in the public sphere becomes critical. Understanding dialogic and deliberative communication helps us to interrogate and improve our public engagement work, and the ways in which we can develop collective capacity to deal with complex public issues.
This WWS policy briefing reviews how participatory budgeting (PB) has become central to advancing three policy agendas in Scotland – public service reform, community empowerment and social justice – and examines the requirements to mainstream PB including the co-production of new systems, new mindsets and ways of working. This is an open access resource, you can read online or download the PDF.
Open access to the Report and Executive Summary.
Community planning partnerships are a central platform for local governance in Scotland. They are key vehicles to drive public service reform in line with the 2011 Christie Commission, and to improve local democracy and equality as proposed by the COSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy and as articulated in the 2015 Community Empowerment Act. This places community planning workers at the frontline of delivering effective processes of collaboration and participation in policymaking and public service delivery. This new report offers an overview of key dynamics, challenges and accomplishments from the perspective of community planning officials across the country. The survey took place in 2018, two years into the implementation period of the Community Empowerment Act, and therefore reflects some of its early impact on local governance and community planning practice (using our 2016 survey as a baseline).
The open access ebook Hope for democracy: 30 years of participatory budgeting worldwide is the largest collection of articles about participatory budgeting (PB) on a global scale.
One chapter outlines key lessons from the Scottish experience so far. Participatory budgeting in Scotland: The interplay of public service reform, community empowerment and social justice was co-written by members of the PB Working Group, which works with civil society and the Scottish Government to inform and advance the development of PB.
The authors highlight how PB has become central to policy action that aims to advance community empowerment and public service reform. The chapter shows the importance of the interplay between civil society and government in opening a window of opportunity for this democratic innovation.
They conclude that the mainstreaming of PB which is now under way in Scotland, carves up space for more complex participatory participatory and deliberative processes to decide on core local government budgets. However, for PB to make a substantial difference in the lives of citizens and communities, democratic innovators (i.e. politicians, activists, public servants) across Scotland will have to overcome challenges related to culture, capacity, politics, legitimacy and sustainability.
For more information about PB in Scotland, visit the WWS website.
Delighted to see the publication of this article I’ve co-writen with Adrian Bua (NEF and De Montfort University), available in open access at Policy Design and Practice
This report explores the developing roles of key community sector organisations known as community anchors. It draws from six exemplar anchor organisations to explore their roles in engaging with, leading and challenging public service reform; how public services and the state can better support community anchors and community sector development; and the potential roles of anchors in building local democracy, community resilience for sustainable development, and wider social change.
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Community planning officials constitute one of the most significant groups of local public servants in Scotland today. They work across a broad range of key policy areas and are at the forefront of advancing the agenda laid out by the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services and legislation such as the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act.
This Survey report and Executive Summary present the findings of the first survey of community planning officials (managers and officers) conducted in Scotland.
For more information and to download the report please check the What Works Scotland site.