What do people in Northern Ireland think of democracy? Have they become downheartened, disappointed, disillusioned?

If the crowds that came for Democracy Day in Belfast last month are anything to go by, it’s clear there’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy for democracy – and plenty of ideas for how to fix it!


Coincidentally meeting as Stormont talks were coming to a close leaving Northern Ireland in somewhat of a political deadlock, it was perhaps a fitting time to be talking about the health of democracy in Northern Ireland!


We spent the day exploring democracy and beyond through a deliberative lens showcasing some groundbreaking experiments both locally and internationally and starting discussions about how to get a better democracy in Northern Ireland.

Together with our partners at Involve, we hosted a ‘Wall of Ideas’ and encouraged participants at the event to put forward their ideas and solutions for achieving a ‘better democracy’. 

Wall of Ideas
Wall of Ideas

We asked ‘How do we get a better democracy in Northern Ireland?’

Here’s a summary of the key ideas:

  • All-inclusive politics involving people from across society with a focus on engaging young people.
  • Innovate and encourage a culture of participation, deliberation and empowerment
  • Develop skills and educate people in politics, rational evidence based thinking and facilitation
  • Create formal spaces for public dialogue and debate (e.g. a citizens’ assembly or civic forum) in addition to improved representative democracy structures

The ideas we heard from people at the event shows some clear enthusiasm to step outside the confines of representative democracy and use a range of methods and tools to better involve citizens in decision making. Underpinning all of this needs to be a shift in culture and attitudes, particularly pertaining to enthusiasm for innovation and more opportunities for citizen participation.

You can read the short summary report with all the ideas which we wrote to provide an overview.

What needs to happen next?

What needs to happen next? 

We’ve been working in Northern Ireland with BCT for two years as mentors on the Civic Activism Programme. As this programme comes to an end, their next steps are to bring a network together to support a more deliberative and participatory democracy in Northern Ireland. We’re looking forward to working with some of our friends and colleagues at Democracy Day in the future, and continuing our ongoing work in Northern Ireland. Building Change Trust hosted the Democracy Day event as part of the Imagine Festival. Thanks again to Building Change Trust for an excellent event – hopefully this is only the start!






Democracy Day was run by Building Change Trust as part of the Imagine Festival 2017. 



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