Our Resources

Our learning from a pseudo world cafe experience…

With the world moving everything online, we tried and tested our skills by running a pseudo world-café online with our team. Download our key learnings from it here.

What is participatory budgeting?

As part of our work on participatory budgeting (PB) in Scotland, we have developed a short film which explores how PB can make a meaningful difference for people and places.

More information about participatory budgeting in Scotland can be found on the PB in Scotland website.

Creating online spaces for deliberation

Just like many, we at the Democratic Society have found ourselves in the midst of a question that imposed itself on us and our work alike: how have the measures that have led us to this “new normal” caused by the spread of Covid-19 affected public deliberation? And what can be done to resolve the challenges and make the shift to digital mechanisms as quickly and as efficiently as possible?

Indeed, the tallest of orders. And not only due to the pandemic: the challenges of taking deliberation online while making sure its most useful aspects are retained have existed prior to this shift. Together with Australia’s newDemocracy Foundation, we decided to source our solutions by examining the things that have worked, while keeping in mind the challenges that are inherent to this, digital approach.

You can read our paper here.

Populism & Civic Engagement: Research

PaCE is a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Commission. For this project, nine different partners across Europe are aiming to understand aspects of populist movements, to build upon the lessons from positive examples of connecting with citizens, and through this play a part in constructing a firmer democratic and institutional foundation for the citizens of Europe.

Public engagement activities are a key part of the PaCE project. It enters into an active exchange with policymakers, civil society, the general public, and wider stakeholders about the implications of the project research findings with opportunities to introduce them into practice, as well aspolicymaking.

Asides from distributing research findings, the public engagement activities are also a way for the generation of findings itself, which will be introduced into the academic research of the consortium. We want to share and draw attention to two outputs from this work.

  • This report presents the potential ethical, legal and social (ELSI) issues posed by public engagement on the topic of populism and civic engagement, and its potential impact on individuals and communities across Europe – it points to possible ways of mitigating these risks and the steps the PaCE research consortium is taking to address these issues.
  • The PaCE project is informed by Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools based on machine-learning algorithms that identify and trace grievances taking the shape of populist (or related) narratives publicly voiced online by people across Europe and globally. This report explores the potential drawbacks of using technology to study a social phenomenon – technology may invade privacy, be used to undertake surveillance, compromise the rights of the individual or harm the society at large. It can also serve as guidance for other consortia or organisations designing similar tools.

How to tell the story of a citizens’ assembly

As part of the Innovation in Democracy Programme, The Democratic Society and the Royal Society of Arts have published a short guide on how to tell the story of citizens’ assemblies.

You can read the PDF guide here. 

The short guide concentrates on how to report on a Citizens’ Assembly as it happens:

  • Creating live and prepared content on the assembly
  • How to use social media as part of an assembly and
  • The options for live streaming, and live audio.

You’ll find the guide published on Involve’s web page dedicated to the programme, along with other guides – published by partners of the programme.

Our partners, mySociety, have also published guides on Digital Tools for Citizens’ Assemblies and a guide on Practical Guidance on Citizens’ Assembly Websites. 

The Innovation in Democracy Programme is supporting three local authorities to involve citizens in decision-making using citizens’ assemblies. Involve, the Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA are providing support to each of the local authorities to design, run and report on their deliberative mini-public.

The programme is being jointly run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Three local authorities are being supported to carry out citizens’ assemblies:

  • Test Valley: How do we improve the area around Crosfield Hall and the Bus Station to deliver the maximum benefit to Romsey? 
  • Dudley: What can communities and the Council do together to make Dudley and Brierley Hill town centres places that are vibrant, welcoming and somewhere we are proud of? How will we know we are making a difference in: 12 months; 3 years; by 2030?
  • Greater Cambridge: How do we reduce congestion, improve air quality, and provide better public transport in Greater Cambridge?

If you want to find out more about the programme by visiting the Government’s own IiDP webpage.

Local democracy

Our work on local democracy includes a range of projects, from those based across multiple council-sites, such as the Luminate-funded Public Square project and the Innovation in Democracy Project (IiDP), to working directly with councils including the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the London Borough of Camden. Outside the UK, we ran a citizen-led, year-long ‘Festival of Participation’ in Messina, Italy.

Participatory budgeting

A growing part of our Local Democracy work includes Participatory Budgeting (PB). From 2015/16 we became the digital support partners for the Scottish Government’s programme to encourage the adoption of Participatory Budgeting in Scotland, and are now working on PB in the Netherlands. Our resource highlights include our podcast series, Weighing Digital, An Experts’ Guide, and webinar series about making your own PB process which you can watch on the Demsoc Youtube channel.

Data and digital

Data and digital technologies, smart cities, and other technological innovations are having a profound impact on democracy, presenting both potential pitfalls and extraordinary opportunities. Our data and digital practice seeks to understand how to build better democracy and strengthen our digital rights in a time of technological change.O

Open Government

We are delivering the Open Government Network for Europe (OGNfE), and have been involved in the Open Government Partnership, attending this year’s OGP Summit in Ottawa. Our open government work centres on connecting and driving efforts for open, accountable and citizen-centred government.

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