The Innovation in Democracy Programme and its lessons for deliberative democracy

The Innovation in Democracy Programme (IiDP) was created in 2019 to support local authorities in using deliberative democracy – through citizens’ assemblies and associated methods – to shape decision-making and policy creation.

What is the Innovation in Democracy Programme?

The Innovation in Democracy Programme (IiDP) – established by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) – was an innovative experiment which challenged us to support local authorities to tackle a complex, local issue in a different way; we tested using a deliberative democracy process within a local government environment to change the way communities are involved in sharing and shaping decision-making. We think it’s fair to say it worked, but with lots of learning for all involved.

The programme’s aims were to:

  • increase the opportunities for local people to have a greater say over decisions that affect their communities and their everyday lives;
  • encourage new relationships and build trust between citizens and local authorities; and
  • strengthen local civil society by encouraging participation in local institutions.

Involve, Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA worked from March 2019 to March 2020 with three local authorities – Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council; Greater Cambridge Partnership; and Test Valley Borough Council – to involve residents in decision-making. We did this through piloting citizens’ assemblies. We were asked to support the local authorities in the following ways:

  • design, facilitate and report on their citizens' assembly;
  • develop a digital strategy to extend the reach, transparency, and accountability of the process; and
  • collect and share the local authority’s learning within and beyond their authority.

This video gives a unique insight into the citizens’ assembly process from the perspective of three participants from each of the areas.

Five of the key figures involved in creating and operating the initiative outline the methods, challenges and outcomes of a programme that had to adapt and adjust to both an early general election and the COVID-19 crisis. You can read the full blog written by the team here.

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