Change at the Council: Independent Review of Governance for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Today, The Democratic Society (Demsoc) and the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) published a report titled Change at the Council: Independent Review of Governance for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Funded by the Local Government Association (LGA), this report is the result of months of research conducted by talking to residents, councillors, council officers and partners about the good and bad aspects of the current system, and how it can be improved. We have looked at the way that the Council makes decisions and who is involved in making those decisions.…Read more

Reflections on a three month internship with The Democratic Society

In June we were delighted to welcome Alex Hrabinová to our office in Edinburgh to begin a three-month internship, which was enabled by the Erasmus+ programme. Having now returned home to Slovakia, we asked Alex to reflect on her time spent working with the Demsoc team. You can read about her experiences below. We're always happy to hear from people interested in working in the Democratic Sector. We are able to support occasional internship opportunities, but it's important to us that the placements are meaningful development opportunities and can fit alongside our existing…Read more

Event Alert: Democracy in action? – The Place of Referendums in Scotland and the UK

The referendum is, in theory, one of the best democratic instruments around.  One person, one vote. Direct Democracy in action. Look at Switzerland! However, when we look at referendums in more detail, we can be exposed to a very different picture. Are referendums being used within a democratic culture that generates positive democratic outcomes? Alistair Stoddart from The Democratic Society will speak on a panel about The Place of Referendums in Scotland and the UK in Glasgow on Wednesday 13th September 2017 from 5.30pm.   The event has been organised by the Centre…Read more
Mentoring for democratic innovation – a new way of working?

Mentoring for democratic innovation – a new way of working?

Democratic innovation can sometimes be challenging because people underestimate what it takes to run a successful process, but with strategic support these processes can be much easier to grasp, and with more confidence, much easier to deliver. In a recent project (Civic Activism Programme) in Northern Ireland we worked with our friends at Building Change Trust (BCT) and Involve to run a mentoring programme to support local democratic innovation projects. The aim of the Civic Activism Programme was to trial innovative ways of engaging with local communities, and BCT recognised that programme projects would…Read more
Helping parliaments get closer to the people they represent

Helping parliaments get closer to the people they represent

By Andy Williamson A key challenge for those trying to engage a broader public in parliamentary democracy is that the processes often appear closed and opaque (because, often, they are). The language is off-putting, the procedures cumbersome and unfriendly, and it’s hard to see what’s going on. It can be hard to see any value in taking part. Digital can’t fix thefirst problem (though it can help), it should improve the second (otherwise it’s pointless) and it can significantly impact on the final two. The internet has given us the opportunity for a genuine…Read more

Free but not that free: Is forcing citizens to exercise their democratic rights fundamentally illiberal?

Guest blogger Jane Zacharzewski on discussions about compulsory voting in Belgium. Last month, Belgium’s Movement Réformateur (MR) held their annual conference. As a liberal and conservative party within the French speaking community, MR prides itself on its fundamental liberal traditions, including equality of opportunity and respect for individual freedoms. Up for discussion: a number of proposed amendments to their manifesto.  The motion which attracted considerable media attention in the Belgian press and a heated debate on the floor proposed a change to the party’s position on compulsory voting. Belgium, along with Greece and…Read more

Recommendations for improving online consultations

How can the experience of online consultations, as run by central government, be improved? This was the broad question that Demsoc and Snook were tasked with exploring as part of a six-week discovery phase project for the Government Digital Service. GDS were clear that they wanted the focus to be on platforms – although you can never separate platforms and process entirely. The two organisations brought different expertise and research skills to the project: Demsoc sharing insight around consultations and policy making, and leading upon desk-research and expert interviews; with Snook using their…Read more
How do we take back control?

How do we take back control?

  Digital democracy & democratic deficit in the EU The Democratic Society are working on a project to find out how people would like to communicate ideas directly to the institutions of the European Union. It's about citizens feeding in to policy-making and having a say more than just once every five years in the European elections. The UK's role in this is significant as Brexit highlighted a common perception that there is a lack of democracy, that people in Britain have ‘lost control’ over EU policy making. we will be hosting an online…Read more
Religion, Migration, Power and Money

Religion, Migration, Power and Money

The tale of two Athens hotels, the 5-star and the refugee camp. Religion, Migration, Power and Money was the title of last month's Athens Democracy Forum. The conference was sponsored by some Big Names, it attracted important people to come and speak, including the President of Greece, op-ed columnists at the New York Times, the Mayor of Athens, a top British QC and the European Commissioner for migration, among others. And they all had one thing in common: they were all grey-haired white men[1]. At this beautifully organised three-day conference, it was the white…Read more

Vacancy – Digital Democratic Engagement Officer

The Democratic Society is recruiting a Digital Democratic Engagement Officer to support our Participatory Budgeting work in Scotland. This is initially a six month contract based at our office in Edinburgh, Scotland. Full information, including the application process, is outlined in the job description below. The deadline for applications is 10am on Monday 14th November 2016. All applicants will be contacted within 2 weeks of the deadline and the strongest applicants will be invited for interview week commencing the 28th November. Please direct any questions to Alistair Stoddart, Scotland Network Manager - aws10@demsoc.org / 07732 836 741. We look forward…Read more