Democracy Box: Young people designing better information about democracy
Democracy Box is a project to develop prototypes of public and educational information campaigns which create a better basic understanding of our Welsh and UK democratic systems and structures by a wider percentage of the population.
Yvonne Murphy (aka Omidaze Poductions) was awarded Clwstwr funding for this work. The idea came out of the Talking Shop, a pilot that involved opening a shop front up for anyone to come in and talk in Cardiff.
The starting point was:
While plenty of information and content already exists, it is of varying levels of quality. Many brilliant people, organisations and departments are already doing this work. What is missing is the curation, signposting and joining up of that content.
Why would someone who is not engaged even internet search it in the first place? If people do engage, finding and then navigating your way through the information is currently time consuming and difficult.
No existing content, that they could find, explains the whole democratic system. The Welsh Assembly explains Wales. Westminster explains Westminster. The BBC interestingly mainly explains Northern Ireland via Bitesize. And all this separate information is usually event-based. Or as one interviewee explained: it is wrapped around the flagpoles of certain events whether that be 20 years of devolution or an election.
Over a three-month period, the aim was to create or curate three things:
Content – which communicates knowledge of our democracy, its history and how it works and all fits together
An experience and engagement tool that drives people towards that content
A best practice co-creation model of working with young people.
The project researched the current level of understanding of our democratic systems and existing content which explains them, and began developing protypes by:
Experimenting with an online ‘Talking Shop’ for members of the public
A survey with 150 respondents
Feedback via social media call outs and questions
Desk research and reading
Interviews with key stakeholders
Exploring the BBC and its content that explaining our democratic system; mapping this against its charter and five public purposes
Recruiting a community consultant from the Somalian Muslim community who helped reach and onboard focus group participants and spread the call out for young co-creators
Contracting professional creatives – an animator and a cut through content creator to work with young co-creators
Focus groups with diverse young people aged 16-31
Recruiting ten young co-creators aged 16-31 for the equivalent of a day. Each of whom conducted their own research amongst family and friends (reaching around 500 young people). The project took six of the young co-creators ideas forward initially and then finally narrowed it down to working on three ideas with four of the group for one day more.
You can hear a short podcast by these young people presenting the first phase of this work, and the young co-creators’ ideas below.
The research began just as the pandemic hit and the UK went into lockdown. In Yvonne’s words, the challenge to make everything remote became an opportunity and meant she ended up working with ten young people instead of five. Plans to talk to and interview elected representatives at the Senedd and Westminster and local government level was put on hold as was face to face focus groups with groups of university students. Though these were replaced with focus groups of 16-30 year olds from potentially more diverse backgrounds thanks to the community consultant.
The project has trialled a framework process for collaborating with young people which can be replicated, and has now generated ten ideas for content and engagement which can be developed.
I had hoped for the germ of one idea from this process. Instead I was blown away by the creative energy and plethora of ideas and approaches to engaging people from a board game to an interactive game show to content for Instagram TV to spoken word.
Key stakeholders that were interviewed, said their research tells them the main thing people want to be better informed is a one-stop shop for information. This aligned with all the focus group conversations, survey results and work with the young co-creators. Most of the people spoken to said the same three things – make it relevant to people’s lives, make it be in one place and make it simple.
Almost everyone spoken to, interviewed, collaborated with and surveyed said this information needed to be taught in schools. Primary and secondary. Over 91% of those surveyed said that young people should be taught about our democracy in school. When asked at the end of the survey if they had anything to add the majority talked about educating our young people about our democratic systems and structures in school being of paramount importance.
One of the outputs that has been created following this work is a podcast made by some of the young people to explain the basics of UK democracy "for young people, old people and eveyone in between". In their own words this podcast is about: "Blasting the lid off the shame of not knowing". You can listen to the Democracy Box podcast on spotify.
Working with the young co-creators has resulted in a set of creative ideas for improving public understanding of democracy.
It has also had a positive impact on the young people involved. You can hear their feedback on the project in their own words below.
The first stage of this research took three months. The next stage will be a twelve-month project. The prototypes from this could be ready by April 2021 in time for the next Welsh Assembly Elections.
This case study was created using written responses from Yvonne Murphy. If you’d like to know more, or are interested in collaborating you can find more information and contact details on the Omidaze website.
Democratic Society, who are delivering Public Square, are collaborating with Omidaze in the second stage of this project.