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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This Research Note introduces a range of ‘mini-publics’ and outlines key features, how they work, and how they may improve opportunities for citizens to contribute to public deliberation and participatory governance.
The idea of mini-publics was first proposed four decades ago by political scientist Robert Dahl. Inspired by democratic ideals and social science principles, Dahl envisioned an innovative mechanism for involving citizens in dealing with public issues. He called it ‘minipopulus’: an assembly of citizens, demographically representative of the larger population, brought together to learn and deliberate on a topic in order to inform public opinion and decision-making. A growing number of democratic innovations have flourished around the world based on this idea, from Citizens’ Juries, to Planning Cells, Consensus Conferences, Deliberative Polls and Citizens’ Assemblies. Mini-publics have been used to deal with topics ranging from constitutional and electoral reform, to controversial science and technology, and myriad social issues (e.g. health, justice, planning, sectarianism).
The paper includes answers to frequently asked questions about mini-publics. You can also see more examples and resources on the What Works Scotland website.
Photo by Milin
In this project, the focus of the Citizens’ Juries discussions will be health inequalities and potential policy responses to these inequalities. We are organising three Citizens’ Juries in Summer 2016, one in Glasgow, one in Liverpool and one in Manchester. Each jury will last two days and will take place in July 2016.
For more information about the project please see our website where we will also post findings and publications in due course.
What Works Scotland is inviting those interested and involved in participatory budgeting to a morning session with international PB expert Giovanni Allegretti.
Monday 13 June from 11am to 13:00 at the University of Edinburgh (tea/coffee served from 10.45am, and lunch after the event at 1pm)
Participatory budgeting (PB) is gaining momentum in Scotland, with new processes developing across the country; over 20 Local Authority Areas undertaking capacity building programmes; and a new commitment in the SNP manifesto for the recent elections: “Setting Councils a target of having at least 1 per cent of their budget subject to Community Choices budgeting. This will be backed by the Community Choices Fund to help public bodies and community groups build on examples of best practice.”
This session provides an opportunity to hear about international PB experiences and how they compare to current developments in Scotland. A chance to discuss the principles and practicalities of PB, including emerging challenges and exciting prospects.
The session will be hosted by Oliver Escobar (WWS), and feature Kathleen Glazik, PB lead at the Scottish Government, who will provide reaction to Giovanni’s presentation as well as reflection about the future of PB in Scotland.
This event is free but places are limited. Please register to book your place here.
An exciting collaboration has been established between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and What Works Scotland (WWS) to support the strategic and operational delivery of Participatory Budgeting within Scotland and beyond.
The first output from this collaboration is a joint publication by Chris Harkins and Oliver Escobar: Participatory budgeting in Scotland: an overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective delivery.
The paper takes stock of the policy context for PB in Scotland, and outlines ten strategic PB design choices and ten principles for effective delivery. The metaphor here is not ‘transplanting’ but translating and adapting. PB delivery organisations, communities and citizens involved in the PB process are thus encouraged to use the design choices and principles selectively, flexibly and reflectively as meets their specific purpose, need and context.