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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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
Equality and community engagement are central to core policy developments and frameworks that guide current public sector reform: i.e. Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services; Community Empowerment Act 2015; Fairer Scotland; Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy.
The key motivation for this review of the literature is to explore the intersection between community engagement and inequality. This is important because inequalities in health, wealth, income, education and so on, can be arguably seen as stemming from inequalities in power and influence. Therefore, community engagement processes can simply reproduce existing inequalities, unless they are designed and facilitated to distribute influence by ensuring diversity and inclusion.
Find out more and download the publication in our WWS website.
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.
The Commission on Parliamentary Reform presented its report to the Scottish Parliament on 20th June 2017. The report is available HERE. Since November 2016 the Commission has met with and considered the views of over twelve hundred people from across Scotland including MSPs and former MSPs, academics, the third sector and members of the public. The report makes a series of recommendations which collectively will strengthen the Parliament’s scrutiny role and encourage wider engagement and democratic innovation.
On 26 October 2016, the independent Commission on Parliamentary Reform was established by the Presiding Officer to look at how the Scottish Parliament can engage better with the people of Scotland and how its work can be improved to deliver better scrutiny.
These are some notes I’ve made to guide my input to the Commission’s evidence session on 25th November 2016. They outline ideas, questions and arguments to inform democratic innovation at the Scottish Parliament.
Click here so see more information about the Commission, how it works and how to contribute.