The Democratic Society (Demsoc) is a UK-based membership organisation that aims to make democracy work for the 21st century. We are trying to build a more participative democracy, based on good information, transparent government, and open decision making. A small team manage the day-to-day running of Demsoc, and undertake projects with government at a local, national and international level. Our project work funds Demsoc, and we are a non-profit organisation. We work mainly with governments, but we are independent of political parties. It is important to us that we remain politically neutral, so that we are able to work with, and include, anyone who wishes to get more out of their democratic rights.
Demsoc’s day-to-day work is undertaken by a small staff team, led by Anthony Zacharzewski as Director.
Anthony runs Demsoc from day to day. He has spent over a decade working on his two main interests – tech and politics – and thinking about how emerging social and network technologies can improve government and political participation. In 2006, he was one of the founding members of Demsoc, along with Andy Martin, Andrew Hardie, Helen Cammack and Ben Rowland. His working life has been spent in central and local government. At various times he has been speechwriter at the Department of Health; secretary to the Cabinet Committees on health, food and agriculture; a member of the national Sure Start team, and project leader in the Treasury’s internal think tank, the Productivity and Structural Reform Team. He joined Brighton & Hove City Council as Head of Policy in 2006, where he was responsible for strategy, community relations, and sustainability. After nine months on the authority’s board as Acting Director of Strategy & Governance, he left to work for Demsoc in February 2010.
Alistair is the Scotland Network Manager for the Democratic Society.
He is 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.
Millicent 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 had worked for the Scottish Government, Scottish Civic Forum, European Parliament, the Association for Citizenship Teaching (England) and the Financial Times. In 2015 she also stood for the UK Parliament herself. “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.”
She originally trained as a scientist, and subsequently worked in science policy, increasing conversations between academics and policy-makers to develop better policy, before choosing to move away from a focus on ‘elites’ to amplify citizen voice and involvement more broadly
Michelle has a strong interest in technology, digital, and open data, and explores how these intersect with democratic questions, including how to enable a greater degree of civic participation, how to ensure a greater degree of government accountability, and how governments can share information and data with their citizens.
She has recently completed a discovery phase research project for the UK’s Government Digital Service, providing recommendations to the UK Government on how the experience of consultations can be improved. She is the head of Demsoc’s Manchester hub.
Kelly joined Demsoc in March 2015 as a Democratic Engagement Officer. Previously they were President at the University of Sussex Students’ Union for a 2 year term, where their work included developing structures for democratic participation, governance and community engagement. They have also managed an international education centre, assisted on public sector projects and worked as an events co-ordinator, in addition to several years of voluntary experience working on social justice and equality issues. They hold a BA (Hons) in Anthropology & Development Studies from the University of Sussex and are currently completing a part-time MSc in Education at the University of Edinburgh.
Niamh joined Demsoc as a Democratic Engagement intern in 2015. She supports our Scottish based projects from our Edinburgh Office. Prior to joining Demsoc staff, she worked for the Scottish Parliament in a political communications role for Patrick Harvie MSP. Niamh studied Law and Politics at the University of Glasgow and specifically focused on public law, the EU and democracy studies. Niamh has a keen interest in Europe and previously worked with the European Youth Parliament on engagement and outreach programmes.
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.
Beth joined Demsoc in 2015 as a Democratic Engagement intern. She graduated from the University of Sussex in July 2015, with a degree in Politics and International Relations.
Whilst studying, Beth 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.
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.
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.
Demsoc’s work is overseen by a Board of Governors, who have responsibility for setting the direction of the organisation, approving work programmes and preserving the independence and values of the organisation. TheGovernors are elected or appointed under the terms of our Articles. They serve three-year terms.
Catherine is Chief Executive of social technology firm Public-i, and a specialist in social media and eDemocracy with a background in technology delivery. She has worked with online communities and social networking tools for over 10 years. Initially developing learning applications at the London Business School, she was founder director of Etribes.com – an online community consultancy that specialised in working with third sector organisations such as Christian Aid, YMCA and YHA. During the last year Catherine was awarded a PhD at the University of Sussex, and her research interest was in the social impact of Web 2.0 tools in a democratic context
Andy is an internationally recognised thought-leader in digital democracy, democratic innovation and transforming engagement. He works with parliaments, governments and civil society organisations right around the world to make democracy work better, strengthen leadership and to make our democratic architectures more open and transparent. Andy is an experienced researcher, consultant and leader and the Founder of Democratise, Chairman of Do It UK and a Governor of the Democratic Society. He has a reputation as a pioneer in the field of digital media and civic activism. Andy is not afraid to speak truth to power and has a breadth of knowledge and experience that makes him a formidable voice that cannot be ignored. He’s also a regular speaker and commentator on democracy, innovation and social activism. In the past he has been Director of Digital Democracy at the Hansard Society and Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Government’s Digital Strategy Board, he holds a PhD from Monash University, Australia in critical theory, democracy and ICT.
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.