Going Beyond the Rules


World events are happening at pace and without precedence. Amidst the seismic changes many are experiencing, we see new connections, calls to action and impetus for better change. This is as true for collective global issues such as climate change and the pandemic, as it is for hyper local communities, cities and localities that want to see change where they live.  

Beyond the Rules is an exciting collective enquiry into systemic governance and the inequalities people experience in relation to decision making and power structures in organisations.  We also explore how, even in the world of ‘social good’ these inequalities are re-produced and replicated in structures, governance and performance management relationships we create in our work.

The Democratic Society has been working with Black Thrive Lambeth, Dark Matter Labs, Lankelly Chase and York Multiple Complex Needs Network to research and define an understanding of governance that is more open, more accessible and shared with more authenticity.  Our exploration uses journeys of change and growth in our own organisations to discover what’s happening, and to help us move forward to meet the challenges that the future is holding.

We are sharing this learning with others. We want to create a community of potential friends and allies, and continue exploring, testing and challenging the way we approach social good. 

Learning events 

In 2022 we are hosting a series of learning events, blogs and reflective works to share what we have learned.  Check out our Events Page for further details and our latest thinking and blogs here.

At Demsoc, this work is part of our emerging ‘Democracy Beyond Government’ programme which explores how social change can be fostered outside of the norms and restrictions that traditional funding streams and governance frameworks create, such as our work with Unions and Universities, and place-based community organisations.

Beyond the Rules Background

When we started out in early 2020 the purpose of the work was to develop our own understanding of a ‘theory of humane corporation’. As with most experiments – we set out to achieve a lot of things – some of which worked and some did not.

Our enquiry explored conditions for increasing ownership and more equitable governance within each organisation in the partnership. We held interviews, ran events and workshops, and conducted deep dives with partners to gain a rich understanding of challenges and goals they had for creating better governance both within their organisations and across the systems they are situated in. We spoke to a wide range of actors including those actively engaged in doing governance differently in their organsations and spaces. In the Power at Work blog series we share some of the findings from this research.

We also interviewed our own staff on what power means for them at work, and worked with project partners to explore how to make governance more accessible and distributed across their networks whilst also holding the system and statutory service providers to account. Together we created organisational mapping, to understand how decisions are currently made, by whom, and how co-production can expand across each facet of an organisation. As a partnership we worked to map out what governance means in a system and how this can be changed for the better. Our findings have been digested with our Beyond the Rules partners to help support conversations about governance in their contexts. 

As we move into 2022, we look back on what we have achieved and are grateful for what we have learned, and for the generous spirit with which our partners have worked together.

Further information

For further information about this work, please contact Paula Black or Alex Zur-Clark at Demsoc.

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