Better democracy, everywhere

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, where people and institutions have the desire, opportunity and confidence to participate together.

We work to create opportunities for people to become involved in the decisions that affect their lives and for them to have the skills to do this effectively. We support governments, parliaments and any organisation that wants to involve citizens in decision making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. We actively support spaces, places and processes to make this happen.

We achieve our aims by:

  • Promoting a culture of openness and participation in public services.
  • Delivering practical, empowering participatory projects, products and services that enhance and support collaboration between citizens and public services.
  • Advocating for new and innovative methods of participation, the culture change that organisations need to make this happen and the skills citizens need to become active participants.
  • Promoting an evidence-based approach that demonstrates good practice, effective use and clear, strategic benefits.
  • Producing and publishing resources that support learning and effective participation.
  • Providing sectoral and thought leadership around democracy, democratic strengthening and effective participation.

With offices in Brighton, Brussels, Edinburgh and Manchester, our work is undertaken by a talented and experienced team who are passionate about democracy and finding ways to make it work better.

Managing Partners

Governor & Managing Partner

Edinburgh-based Dr Andy Williamson is a global leader in democratic innovation and civic participation, bringing extensive experience in strategy, political campaigning, communication, social and tech start-ups and participatory research. Most recently he has worked with the Scottish Government, Cabinet Office, United Nations, Volvo and the parliaments of the UK, Chile, Moldova and Serbia. Andy works with ministers, elected members and policy makers, businesses, academics and citizens.

He is an acknowledged expert in parliamentary openness and engagement and the author of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s World e-Parliament Report, the IPU’s Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments and co-author of ‘From Arrogance to Intimacy – Handbook for Active Democracies’. He is a member of the UK Open Government Network Steering Group, the Scottish Open Government Partnership Pioneer Board, the OGP’s Legislative Openness Working Group and the Llywydd’s Taskforce on Digital Communication in the National Assembly for Wales.

Andy is well known as a skilled facilitator, engaging public speaker, writer and commentator for a wide range of media, including The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera and TedX. A New Zealander, he holds a PhD in Information Science from Monash University, Melbourne, has held senior leadership positions in the private, public and charity sectors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was previously the Chair of Do-it UK, Director of Digital Democracy at the Hansard Society and Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Government’s Digital Strategy Board.

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Governor & Managing Partner

Anthony Zacharzewski is an international leader in democratic innovation and government reform. After fourteen years in strategic roles in UK central and local government, he founded the Democratic Society in 2006 to develop new approaches to democratic governance that are better suited to the 21st century. In growing the organisation from kitchen table to a team of fourteen, he has worked with government at every level from village council to European Commission, and on projects in Serbia, Ireland, France and the UK. Equally at home in senior government settings or running public workshops, he is part of a global network of democracy and government innovators. He is a regular contributor at the Club of Venice (the association of heads of government communications of the EU member states), SEECOM (South Eastern Europe Communications Network), the Council of Europe’s World Forum for Democracy, the Scottish Government’s Democratic Renewal Group. He is a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Egmont Institute (Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Senior Partners

Director of Strategy & Development

Michelle brings a strong interest in digital and open data, and explores how these intersect with democracy by asking how we can enable greater civic participation, ensure a more effective government accountability and how governments can share information and data with their citizens. She originally trained as a scientist, subsequently working in science policy, increasing conversations between academics and policy-makers to develop better policy, then choosing to focus amplifying citizens’ voices and involvement more broadly.

She has recently completed a research project for the UK’s Government Digital Service, providing recommendations on how the experience of consultations can be improved, a project to understand the implications of and that potential for open government within the institutions of the European Union and leads Demsoc’s Manchester office.

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Director of Operations

Millicent is based in London, having moved back after heading up our office in Edinburgh for a year.

She has spent over a decade working on increasing citizens’ engagement with policy making and bringing people into democratic processes. Before joining Demsoc in 2015 she worked for the Scottish Government, Scottish Civic Forum, European Parliament, the Association for Citizenship Teaching (England) and the Financial Times.

In 2015 she stood for the UK Parliament. “I want to change the way politics is done. I want to enable and inspire more people to engage in decision-making and I want to see a parliament that’s more representative of the people. I believe in working together for a fairer society.”

Millicent has a BA in European Studies from LSE and an MSc in Nationalism from the University of Edinburgh. She speaks English, Norwegian, French and German.

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Project Director

Noah is a Project Director at The Democratic Society where he specialises in democratic participation in the NHS and across central and local government. Noah leads the Brighton office for The Democratic Society and is also, separately, a board member of Tower Hamlets CCG.

He previously worked as an executive board member in the NHS, as a speechwriter and advisor at HM Treasury and Cabinet Office and Director of Strategy at the UK’s competition regulator, amongst others.

He is the founder of Bridgenor Associates, a research consultancy, and previously led strategic communications for the Chairman of Morgan Stanley International.

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Partners

Scotland Network Manager

Alistair is the Scotland Network Manager, responsible for Demsoc’s Scottish projects including: encouraging Collaborative Government in Scotland; running engagement processes for the Commission on Local Tax Reform and the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland Programme.

He is also a member of the Scottish Government’s Participatory Budgeting Working Group, which oversees Participatory Budgeting activity in Scotland. He has been exploring and testing digital tools for Participatory Budgeting in Scotland and beyond.

His interests lie in participative democracy and the impact of digital tools on democratic engagement. He has previously acted as research assistant to Prof Stephen Coleman working on projects relating to political communication at the University of Leeds.

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Australia Lead

After a 20 year career in the British and European civil service, Antonia is now working with Demsoc in Australia. She has just completed a Masters at the University of Melbourne, where her research focused on organisational networks.

A former school governor, she is convinced of the importance of civic understanding and engagement from a young age.

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Democratic Engagement Officer

After completing a 6-month internship in Demsoc’s Brighton office in 2015, Beth moved to Manchester to establish a new office. Since then she has been a key network builder in the north of England and has managed numerous events in the area.

Beth has contributed to many projects, including EU Crowdsourcing, Open Government Partnership, Empowered Citizens: Networked Communities and the organisation of Demfest. She runs the internal and external comms strategy for the Manchester office, as well as working on this for the wider organisation. Beth is currently working on Demsoc’s project with The Health Foundation.

Beth has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Sussex. Whilst studying she focused on state function and formation as well as social equality, specifically gender equality. She edited the Politics Journal and was on the committee of the International Relations Society.

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Office Manager & Project Support

Cyndee joined Demsoc in 2015 to provide support to both the Brighton and Edinburgh offices, as well as to our remote management team and engagement events. Her background lies not in politics but primarily in the media business in a management capacity, with a focus on marketing and operations. She has also held voluntary roles with a number of community groups and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

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Democratic Engagement Officer

Kelly joined The Democratic Society in March 2015 as a Democratic Engagement Officer and is currently based in the Edinburgh office.

Kelly has a decade’s experience designing and facilitating deliberative events, having facilitated conversations on complex issues such as social and economic regeneration for national and local government, public bodies and community groups. She has worked variously with these sectors to improve online and offline engagement, and to increase stakeholder participation.

She has a keen interest in citizenship education and learning for democracy, currently completing a MSc in Education at the University of Edinburgh part-time. She holds a BA (Hons) in Anthropology & Development Studies from the University of Sussex.

Previously, Kelly was President at the University of Sussex Students’ Union for two years, where projects included developing structures for democratic participation, governance and community engagement. She has also managed an international education centre, supported workforce development projects, and worked as an events co-ordinator, in addition to several years of voluntary experience working on community outreach, social justice and equality issues.

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Digital Democratic Engagement

Leah brings a strong background in digital tools and is supporting community organisations in Scotland to use those tools to help local people make collective decisions about how to spend money through Participatory Budgeting (PB). Drawing on a background in local government and working on digital engagement with the Scottish Government, she provides guidance to community organisations to help them realise the benefits of digital engagement and to support the delivery of PB projects funded by the Scottish Government’s Community Choices Fund.

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Democratic Engagement Officer

Mat is based in Demsoc’s Manchester hub. He is passionate about making democracy easier to engage with, and increasing people’s understanding of the things that politicians argue over.

At Demsoc he has helped research and write a guide to the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum, helped with research into improving online consultation in the UK, and supported a number of deliberative processes we have run including Fairer Scotland and NHS Citizen.

He has previously worked in policy research for Citizens Advice, as a research assistant at Cardiff University, and as a mobilisation assistant for a political party – and has an undergraduate degree in Combined Social Sciences, and a Masters in Ethics.

 

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Democratic Engagement Officer

Niamh WebsterNiamh joined Demsoc as an intern in 2015 and now supports our Scottish and Northern Ireland based projects from our Edinburgh Office as a Democratic Engagement Officer. Prior to joining Demsoc, she worked in a political communications role for an MSP at the Scottish Parliament. Niamh studied Law and Politics at the University of Glasgow, focussing on public law, the EU and democracy studies. Niamh’s keen interest in Europe saw her previously work with the European Youth Parliament on engagement and outreach programmes, and means that she is involved in a number of Demsoc projects in the EU and Serbia.

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Governors

Our Board of Governors set the direction for the organisation and oversee what we do.

Governor & Managing Partner

Edinburgh-based Dr Andy Williamson is a global leader in democratic innovation and civic participation, bringing extensive experience in strategy, political campaigning, communication, social and tech start-ups and participatory research. Most recently he has worked with the Scottish Government, Cabinet Office, United Nations, Volvo and the parliaments of the UK, Chile, Moldova and Serbia. Andy works with ministers, elected members and policy makers, businesses, academics and citizens.

He is an acknowledged expert in parliamentary openness and engagement and the author of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s World e-Parliament Report, the IPU’s Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments and co-author of ‘From Arrogance to Intimacy – Handbook for Active Democracies’. He is a member of the UK Open Government Network Steering Group, the Scottish Open Government Partnership Pioneer Board, the OGP’s Legislative Openness Working Group and the Llywydd’s Taskforce on Digital Communication in the National Assembly for Wales.

Andy is well known as a skilled facilitator, engaging public speaker, writer and commentator for a wide range of media, including The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera and TedX. A New Zealander, he holds a PhD in Information Science from Monash University, Melbourne, has held senior leadership positions in the private, public and charity sectors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was previously the Chair of Do-it UK, Director of Digital Democracy at the Hansard Society and Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Government’s Digital Strategy Board.

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Governor & Managing Partner

Anthony Zacharzewski is an international leader in democratic innovation and government reform. After fourteen years in strategic roles in UK central and local government, he founded the Democratic Society in 2006 to develop new approaches to democratic governance that are better suited to the 21st century. In growing the organisation from kitchen table to a team of fourteen, he has worked with government at every level from village council to European Commission, and on projects in Serbia, Ireland, France and the UK. Equally at home in senior government settings or running public workshops, he is part of a global network of democracy and government innovators. He is a regular contributor at the Club of Venice (the association of heads of government communications of the EU member states), SEECOM (South Eastern Europe Communications Network), the Council of Europe’s World Forum for Democracy, the Scottish Government’s Democratic Renewal Group. He is a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Egmont Institute (Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Governor

Catherine is Solutions Director at Capita and previously Chief Executive of social technology firm Public-i. She is an expert in how communities embrace digital innovation, be it in smart cities, digital democracy or social change.

Catherine has over 15 years’ experience, throughout the UK and Europe, looking at how new technologies can best benefit individuals and communities and how the Networked Society can prosper from the coming innovations that will impact where and how we live and work. Working across the public sector she is currently helping deliver projects such as the ground-breaking NHS Citizen initiative as well as digital leadership programmes within local government.

She holds a PhD from the University of Sussex, where her research interest was the social impact of Web 2.0 tools in a democratic context.

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Governor

Christina has been working in British politics for many years. You can find out more about her current work and experience at http://www.christinadykes.com

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Governor

Liz Owen is Head of Customer Insight at the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Policy Fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge. Her work creates, uses and interprets evidence on customer behaviour, attitudes and values. Prior to joining DECC, Liz worked as a research consultant, initially helping international blue chip companies to understand their brand image and inform new product development, moving on to focus on policy research for public sector clients including Defra, DECC, Energy Saving Trust, Carbon Trust and the Sustainable Development Commission. Liz has a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Brasenose College, Oxford.

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