This coming spring three grass roots Assembly events will be happening in London, Manchester and Glasgow, where people will come together to discover and discuss democracy and power in the UK. The plan is for these events to generate questions about who and what holds power in the modern British democratic system and what the future could and should look like.
The events are already drumming up interest among slightly geeky circles, but these are events that are arranged for and by citizens – this grass roots movement is lawn, not AstroTurf.
Personally, I can see a huge potential here to find some fertile common ground between the pockets of revolution happening in established UK institutions like the Cabinet Office’s Open Policy Making team, The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and NHS Citizen, and a citizenry who demand a new, more inclusive and functional democracy. To do this, the institutions will have to sit down, be quiet and seriously listen, rather than assuming they already know what citizens want. This is a real opportunity to show they are committed to walking the walk – not simply producing good copy and flashy websites.
For citizens coming together, it will be difficult to trust some of these offers to open up the system – distrust of the system and irritation at feeling unheard won’t disappear because of well-meaning pilot projects.
Assemblies and protest movements have sometimes struggled to create broad participation where a full range of views is expressed and discussed, or to create governance and decision making processes that are scalable and democratic. The risk of becoming simply another protest movement can only be offset by including a broad range of views, a replicable process and introducing systems that can handle the gamut of issues in a scalable manners. If the Assembly for democracy manages to do this then it could be a very exciting prospect indeed – with the potential to contribute to real change.
For us to truly move forward towards openness, transparency and inclusion there’s going to have to be a huge leap of faith on both sides. I’m not saying that’s going to happen this spring, but it feels like an opportunity to at least get everyone round the same table and looking each other in the eye.
It is my opinion that the established voices needs to be in the room, or they’re going to miss a valuable opportunity. I just hope that the people let them through the door.
There are two planning meeting coming up in the next few days and the Assembly for Democracy teams would like you to come along and help to shape the events. I’ll be at the session in Manchester and I hope to see you there.
Manchester – 24th January 2015
- 12:00 – 17:00
- Room 3.03
- Birley Building
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- M15 6GX
London – 26th January 2015
- 18:30pm –
- 8 Gordon Mansions
- Torrington Place
- WC1E 7HE
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