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Speak up for local democracy – in less than seven minutes

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PechaKucha Night

PechaKucha speakers wanted

We’re hosting a special PechaKucha Night in Huddersfield on Friday 10th February 2017 – and we’re looking for some speakers.

A PechaKucha Night is a fast-paced evening full of exciting speakers and topics. Ours will have a distinctly democratic flavour, as it’s a fringe event of Notwestminster 2017, a two day event bringing together people who have something positive to say about local democracy and who are up for the challenge of making it work better.  

Notwestminster PechaKucha Night 2016So if you’ve got something to say about local democracy, if you’ve a story to tell, or if you’ve got an idea to share, you might like to be one of our speakers on the night.

Each speaker will talk for 6 minutes 40 seconds on a theme of their choosing, following a “20 slides for 20 seconds” format. The slides advance automatically, so everyone gets exactly the same amount of time to speak – and you should be prepared to keep going!

The event will be in Cafe Ollo at the Media Centre on Northumberland Street in Huddersfield, from 7pm.

Our previous PechaKucha talks have included everything from whether public servants are human beings and why technology can’t save democracy, to the ‘joy’ of being a councillor and how regional democracy in England measures up to the Galactic Empire. As you can see, it’s a mixed bag, and sometimes challenging.

We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Councillor Andrew Cooper's PechaKucha talk

Want to be a speaker?

Please contact us if you’re interested in taking part. Get in touch by Friday 20th January if you can.

Want to listen to the talks?

Please come along to learn something new and be entertained. It’s a fun way to find out what inspires some of our local democracy advocates and to hear about people’s passions and interests. There are always a few surprises.

PechaKucha Night – register now


The Notwestminster PechaKucha Night is organised by the Media Centre in Huddersfield and the Notwestminster local democracy network.


Designing Your Democracy Experiment Day – 10th February 2017

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Democracy Experiments Day

Democracy Experiments Day

Friday 10th February 2017
The Media Centre, Northumberland Street, Huddersfield HD1 1RL


This is a day for anyone who is interested in making a difference to local democracy through practical experiments. It will give participants an understanding of the principles of design thinking and some hands on experience.

Nick Taylor from the University of Dundee will get us started with some key lessons that draw on his experiences with design-led civic technology experiments and community-level hackathons over a number of years. We will then be working on some real life examples brought along by participants, and trying out some techniques and approaches.

This day will be of interest to anyone who is already working on one of the Notwestminster experiments, anyone who would like to get involved or anyone who is interested more generally in design and democracy. Everyone is welcome and it’s free to take part.

Democracy Experiments Day – register now

Design Experiments for Local Democracy programme


Nick TaylorNick Taylor
University of Dundee

Nick Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Dundee’s School of Art and Design, specialising in Human–Computer Interaction (HCI) and Interaction Design. His main research interest is the use of technology to support civic engagement in communities, working closely with communities over extended periods of time and deployments of new technologies ‘in the wild’. His most recent research has involved the use of hackathons to support grassroots innovation by bringing together communities with local makers.


Lorraine ClarkeLorraine Clarke
University of Dundee

Loraine Clarke is a research associate at the University of Dundee’s School of Art and Design, with a background in Industrial Design and Human–Computer Interaction. Her research concentrates on physical technology supporting social interactions within groups in public spaces such as community spaces, museums or galleries. Her current research focuses on supporting community innovation utilising digital fabrication and the DIY maker movement.

Dave MckennaDave Mckenna
Scrutiny Manager,
City & County of Swansea

Dave works for the Council in Swansea where he has been for 20 years. Prior to finding a home with scrutiny he worked in a variety of front-line and policy roles with varying degrees of success. He has completed a PhD with the Department of Political and Cultural Studies, Swansea University. His topic was Local Government and Public Participation.

Localopolis (blog)
How to be a public servant (blog)

Photo of Dave courtesy of Anthony Mckeown.

Ed HammondEd Hammond


Centre for Public Scrutiny

Ed leads on the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s work around local accountability. His work has a particular focus on corporate governance within local authorities, but he has also carried out extensive research on policing and community safety, having produced national guidance for the operation of Police and Crime Panels in 2011 and 2012, and research on their first year in operation in 2014.

He is currently leading on Design Experiments for Local Democracy, a partnership programme from Notwestminster and CfPS.

Design Experiments for Local Democracy

Design Experiments for Local Democracy is a practical programme for local democracy advocates. We are encouraging people to rapidly test and evaluate new ways of doing local democracy, and we’re supporting each other in doing this. The programme is co-ordinated by the Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Notwestminster local democracy network.


A year in the life of a better local democracy

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Setting off on a journey together

Election week is one of those times when many of us who are part of local government don’t have time to kick the proverbial table leg (though we might fall over it accidentally). But on the eve of the 2016 UK elections, I’m taking half an hour out to write this, because there’s something that needs to be said. And that thing is this…

Something amazing has quietly happened over the past year. I’ve been thinking back to conversations with the Notwestminster gang in Spring 2015, in which we talked about the clear need for people to be able to find out about their election candidates more easily. We thought about how we could do something locally, but we knew that this same issue stops people from voting across the country. And in the midst of this, I got an email about Democracy Club’s YourNextMP site, and I got a bit excited about the prospect of maybe adapting a tool for the General Election into something that could work for the local elections too.

On 29th April 2015, during the intermission at the Election Special PechaKucha night that we were live tweeting in Huddersfield’s Media Centre, I tentatively asked a few questions…

…and so we got talking with Democracy Club that evening. This led to a gathering of Local Democracy Bytes, Democracy Club and LocalGov Digital Makers in Birmingham a couple of months later. What I hoped to learn that day was whether anyone thought it was feasible to develop a YourNextCouncillor or some such, and what it would take to make it happen. What I didn’t expect was for Democracy Club to come with an aspiration to do this for every election in the UK.

Now, I knew that was a big ask. Many people would not think it possible. Probably even everyone in that room didn’t think it was possible. But when Sym Roe quietly said “we’re aiming, by next May, to make it possible for everyone to find out who they can vote for in every election in the UK”… well, I believed him. And if you’ve been paying the slightest bit of attention, you’ll know that he kept his word.

For our part, we promised to do whatever we could to help, such as explaining how local government works, sharing contacts in the sector, and getting the word out to people that this is important work that we all need to support. We also agreed to work together in any way we could. This led to our first Local Democracy Maker Day, a fringe event of LocalGovCamp in Leeds that September. We organised this jointly between us – LocalGov Digital Makers, Democracy Club and Local Democracy Bytes. It was a really inspiring day in which I learnt much, and our friends from Democracy Club were right at the heart of it.

Because people came to work on our local democracy challenges and stayed for the whole of LocalGovCamp, this also meant that the Unconference the day after was packed with sessions about local democracy too. We could not have hoped for more.

Back in July 2015, I said that we’d started on a journey together, and by the Notwestminster event in February 2016 it felt like we’d already come a long way. Importantly, along the way we’ve made new and stronger connections between those of us who care about our local democracy. That’s really what Notwestminster is all about – the connections between us, and how we can find ways to work together to improve things.

Seeing Sym and Joe from Democracy Club arriving at the Media Centre in Huddersfield, in the place we’d first spoken via twitter, somehow closed a loop for us. It was an arrival, but it also made the journey still ahead suddenly very real…

Just a few short weeks later, and a little short of a year since we asked that first tentative question, a small but ever-growing army of democracy wombles quietly did something extraordinary:

I have sat in meetings over the past couple of weeks and told colleagues that this is amazing. I regret to say that I have received some blank looks in response. But not always. Either way, I shall keep on saying it – and you should too.

I know it’s been hard work to get this far – much harder than it should be. For everyone who has pored over mountains crappy PDFs to get this data together, and to make it open, thank you. There’s much more to do to improve things, which is why we all need to keep going.

For everyone else… please be a part of a better local democracy.

All you need to do is say it will happen, and find people who can help.

What’s next?


Notwestminster Synchronicity – When 48 Becomes 1

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Notwestminster plectrum

Wondering what happened after we packed up our plectrums at Notwestminster 2016? In this blog Carl Whistlecraft reflects on how we generate and develop ideas through Notwestminster.
Carl talks about our journey and shares the evidence we’ve contributed to the Councillor Commission, based on the Real Representation challenge that was part of our 2016 Maker Day and main event.
We’d love to hear where your #notwestminster conversations have taken you. If you’ve something to share, please email us at or tweet us @LDBytes.

It’s really important for me to start this post with a thank you.  As one of the Notwestminster organisers I’ve been lucky enough to have seen this thing build from an idea into a bit of a movement that has at its heart a lot of good will from like-minded people.

Organisers, sponsors, supporters, workshop hosts, speakers and participants have all selflessly given up their time to contribute to doing some pretty wonderful things in the name of local democracy.  I salute you all.

Turning to the main theme of this post.  It’s partly my take on the magical things that happen when you start on a journey, a journey where you have a rough idea where you’re going but have no idea what will happen and who you will meet on the way.  It’s also my crude attempt to end that journey (for now) by summing up my experience of the Friday and Saturday at Notwestminster 2016.

NOTE TO SELF – The only down side of organising these things is you don’t get to be involved in as many of the great workshops as you would like.

The journey part of this post began at We’re not in Westminster any more in February 2015. In retrospect one of the greatest things we did last year was to be fairly dictatorial (not very democratic I know) in insisting that workshop hosts come up with three ideas or actions that they would commit to progress.  Anyone wishing to put those ideas into action only had to sign up and continue the conversation.

Whilst I would be lying if I said that all 48 ideas were worked up into prototypes and embedded in local democratic culture and practice, I do think we created a bit of a marker post for the next step on our journey.

We took those ideas, did some crowd sourcing along with a bit of clumping and collapsing and ended up with 19 local democracy design challenges.  These have become a bit of a route map for the rest of the journey.

Next stop was LocalGov Camp last September in Leeds.  Thanks to the wonderful Phil Rumens we were able to use the Friday before to hold our first Local Democracy Maker Day where three of our challenges got their first airing.  Much has been written about this in various blog posts.  For me it was a significant waymarker – we had taken real challenges and brought people together to begin to solve them.

Fast forward to Friday 12th February 2016 and I’m sat in Huddersfield about get stuck into our second Local Democracy Maker Day.  The challenge for the group I was involved in was ……

Real Representation: The job of the local councillor is to represent their constituents yet their wards can include as many as 25,000 people, all different, all special. How can councillors better reach out to people in their community so that everyone can be properly represented?

During the course of our design challenge we:

  • Had a passionate discussion about the opportunities and challenges associated with representation – it’s complex, multi-layered and involves difficult choices, dialogues and decisions.  A rise in participatory democracy presents both opportunities and barriers.
  • Picked a “live” issue playing out in Huddersfield to begin to explore how the representative role works and how it could possibly be done differently and better.
  • Employed a user story approach to begin to understand the different, and often competing, needs for the representative and the diverse communities and perspectives they have to endeavour to represent.

Whilst our group didn’t build a digital prototype, we did come up with a set of factors and considerations that provide a design brief for how councillors can reach out to the people in their community in order to provide Real Representation.  The inter-related building blocks are:

Devolved Resources and Responsibility – The model of representation is changing.  Councillors are facing a bit of a pincer movement at the moment.  Less resources and reductions in service, on a simplistic level, make it harder for councillors to solve problems in the traditional and paternalistic way.  With this in mind it has never been more crucial for councillors to have the resources to mobilise and enable communities to develop solutions for themselves, particularly where the council is no longer able to deliver such services.  Engagement and consultation around service changes and different models of working is crucial in developing a new and effective form of real representation.  Our group suggested that councils should review and refine their approach to corporate consultation with a view to doing less at a strategic level (often seen as tokenistic) and therefore freeing up resources which can be devolved to the ward level.  This will deliver a more meaningful model of consultation and engagement and as a consequence enhances and reaffirms the representative role.

Mobilising and Communicating – More than ever before real representation will involve the ability and capability to mobilise and communicate with and on behalf of communities.  Network building will be a key skill and enabler.  Councillors will need to be effective in communicating directly to and with residents whilst reflecting views and aspirations back to the council.  Traditional methods, whilst important, will need to be enhanced with more innovative and responsive approaches.  Opportunities presented by social listening, real time ward based intelligence, self-organisation tools and crowd funding technology were all cited by our group as important factors in modernising the representative role.

More Time – It may go without saying but if you want real and effective representation it is important that councillors have the time and space to do it well.  Based on the real experiences of the councillors in our group there are a range of factors and issues that indicate that this is a real challenge.  For example it is clear that there are real time pressures in balancing the direct community leadership role with the attending a plethora of meetings.   The intention of the Local Government Act 2000 may have been to free up councillors to spend more time in their wards but evidentially and anecdotally the volume of meetings haven’t reduced to allow this to happen.  This situation has been compounded further by the plain and simple truth that we “still do meetings like we always have”.  Our group advocates the need to develop a framework that facilitates doing meetings differently, with a greater focus on engagement and collaboration in communities as the starting point rather than the current town hall centric approach.  This should involve more digestible democracy (we need to join up the design challenges) and a greater use of digital collaboration tools as part of all meetings.  Only then will there be a real drive to bridge the gap between communities and decision making.

Tools and Skills – Councillors alone cannot free up more time to represent.  If they could, they would have done it already.  Our group concluded that there needs to be a more holistic and imaginative approach to how councillors are supported.  Such support should include better intelligence, mobile technology, a more enabling approach by council officers AND given the current climate should be cost neutral.  In addition we explored some of the “softer” skills that may be required as the representative role changes.  Being an enabler, problem solver, networker and influencer requires a shift change in the type of developmental support councillors should expect.

Thanks to the following for their contributions to the group discussion:

David Bundy
Annabella Ashby
Ricky Clarke
Andrew Wilson
Elizabeth Shassere
Andy Nash
Perry Walker
Michelle Veasey
John Austin

At the end of the Maker Day we fed back our design brief and made an immediate commitment to action.  Our findings would form part of a submission to the Councillor’s Commission roundtable that would be taking place on Day 2 of Notwestminster 2016.

Less than 24 hours later I find myself, armed with crude flip chart notes, sat with Professor Colin Copus in his round table session.  I had the chance to summarise our findings from the previous day and also received a commitment that this blog post will form part of the evidence that goes into the Councillor Commission’s final report.

So this is the end of the journey (for now).  I hope this provides a grain of evidence that Notwestminster is not just an event.  It is an action focussed movement that happens to get together once a year.  A year ago we had 48 great ideas, this is the story of how one progressed into something tangible.

Powerful stuff eh?


Carl Whistlecraft

Who is your local democracy hero and why?

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Text message saying: NOTWM My local democracy hero is...You can try out mobile messaging before, during and after this year’s Notwestminster.

Have a think about this question:

Who is your local democracy hero and why?

Then start a text message with NOTWM

then give your answer

and send it to 07786 205 227


You’ll get a reply with a link to read other people’s answers. It’s public but anonymous, so you can be as honest as you like.


About mobile messaging

Participation using mobile messaging has a different feel to participation using social media. On social media we are performing and managing our identities for an audience, often a complicated mix of work, interest-group and personal contacts.

Mobile messaging is often for an audience of one, and we only communicate with a small group of contacts by messaging. This means that when mobile messaging is used as a way for people to take part in civic conversations, it feels anonymous.

This can be very helpful for encouraging heartfelt contributions and for welcoming people who are less confident about speaking up in meetings.

Two councillors in Camden used text messages to try and involve more people in a participatory budgeting process as long ago as 2008.

This is one of the messages they received:

“We are 6 mums and we’d like to plead with you about giving the Winch Project funds so it could carry on the wonderful activities for the children. Please as it is the only chance for all low income families. Please.”

One of the councillors involved said afterwards:

“Using texting definitely led to a net increase in participation in the democratic process. It probably almost doubled the participation in the local area forum vote.”

Thumbprint - share local knowledge by text message

What aspects of local democracy do we want to disrupt?

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MattHere’s a guest blog from Matt Clack, who is hosting the Emotion, empathy and urgency – personal experience in public narrative workshop at Notwestminster 2016.

I’m really excited about hosting my first Notwestminster workshop. The topic may seem a bit abstract, but in preparing for the session I’ve had some great conversations with some very clever people and we’ve found tangible ideas of how more empathetic and affinitive approaches will improve the way some public services can operate, and ultimately how we can support residents to be more involved in local democracy.

I’d like to use the workshop to consider the specific services where better rapport between local public servants and residents can make the experience more enjoyable and effective (there are lots of services where this just won’t work, for lots of reasons). This will also need to consider what the exiting barriers are to injecting a bit more personality into the way we work with citizens at present.

As expected, there’s lots of crossover with some of the other workshops being hosted. Ed Hammond will be looking to get under the skin of co-production and deliberative democracy, which I think can only really work if both sides can properly relate to one another, whilst Nick Booth will be looking at how we grow the civic conversation – again I think that for this conversation to work we need public services (outside the comms and consultations teams) that know how to listen, and to share.

One question I have for Notwestminster attendees is what are the aspects of local democracy we want to disrupt? Is it getting people actively engaged in decision-making and / or service provision? For a wider group of residents, is it about supporting informed citizens who know how to raise and resolve issues? Is it enough that they understand the way their council operates, are informed of how decisions are made and can vote in elections that are sensitive to poor performing services? Apart from this last point about electoral power, I think empathy and affinity can contribute to each of these.

In advance of this session, I’d love to hear your examples of where a more informal, human approach to working with residents has improved local public servants. These might be brilliant co-designed services, examples of really effective behaviour change projects, or an organisation being proud of its achievements and the staff that have achieved them. This project from Essex County Council is probably the best I’ve come across.

I’m also really open to challenge on whether any of this matters – to riff off the conference’s rock and roll theme, should we be embracing Aerosmith’s ‘sweet emotion’, or was Elvis right that we need ‘a little less conversation (a little more action please)’?

What we’ll be working on at our Local Democracy Maker Day #LDMaker16

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Local Democracy Maker Day

Local Democracy Maker Day
Friday 12th February 2016
The Media Centre, 7 Northumberland Street, Huddersfield HD1 1RL

Eventbrite - Local Democracy Maker Day 2016

What is a Maker Day?

Our Maker Days are a chance to collaborate with others who care about local democracy on issues that we choose together. Our focus at this Maker Day will be on responding to some of our Design Challenges for Local Democracy.

We want to turn our discussions around local democracy and digital into some practical tools that we can all use to make democracy work better for us – and we hope you’ll be part of it. You don’t need any previous experience to join in – we’ll be learning from each other as we go along.

We’ve chosen three challenges for us to focus on during the day, based on things that participants of the Notwestminster network have shown keen interest in recently.

Our three Local Democracy Design Challenges are:

  • Social Decision Making: Councils make many important decisions yet the people who are affected rarely have their say. How can we get people involved in local policy making so that they can influence the decisions that affect them? 
  • Real Representation: The job of the local councillor is to represent their constituents yet their wards can include as many as 25,000 people, all different, all special. How can councillors better reach out to people in their community so that everyone can be properly represented? 
  • Digestible Democracy:  Local democracy needs to involve the widest range of people and yet the format of reports and the use of jargon puts off all but the most dedicated. How can we present local decision making so it’s less obscure like modern jazz, and more popular, like rock and roll?

Who is it for?

  • Digital makers
  • Open data advocates
  • Local government officers
  • Councillors and candidates
  • Community activists
  • Hyperlocals
  • Voters of today and tomorrow

Want to join in?

Free tickets are available now:

Eventbrite - Local Democracy Maker Day 2016

Other event info

Taking part at the venue or online? Here’s some other information you might find useful:

We are…

We are Local Democracy Bytes and the wider #notwestminster gang. Our Maker Day is part of our collaboration with LocalGov Digital Makers. It’s about turning our discussions around local democracy and digital into some practical tools that we can all use to make democracy work better for us.

With thanks to our sponsors

Our Maker Day is part of Notwestminster 2016, two days of rock n roll local democracy kindly sponsored by:

Supported by UKGovcamp

UK Open Government Civil Society Network

LocalGov Digital

Democracy Club logo

Delib logo

Modern Mindset


Help us to pick our next Maker Day challenges

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Local Democracy Maker Day

We’ll be announcing the three challenges for our next Local Democracy Maker Day this week. If you’ve signed up to take part, you’ll already have received our shortlist. If you haven’t signed up yet, the event is in Huddersfield on Friday 12th February and you can book free tickets for our Maker Day now.

We want to make sure that everyone who is interested gets a chance to help pick the challenges that we’ll be working on together. Here’s our suggested shortlist, based on what participants have told us so far. Please let us know if you have any comments or other ideas.

5 challenges to choose from

  • Social Decision Making: Councils make many important decisions yet the people who are affected rarely have their say.  How can we get people involved in local policy making so that they can influence the decisions that affect them? 
    [we received several workshop pitches for Notwestminster 2016 about this topic, so we know that some of our participants are really interested – but does it appeal to you?]
  • Real Representation: The job of the local councillor is to represent their constituents yet their wards can include as many as 25,000 people, all different, all special.  How can councillors better reach out to people in their community so that everyone can be properly represented? 
    [we’re delighted to have several councillors participating again this time – is this a good opportunity for us to work on this challenge together?]
  • Digestible Democracy:  Local democracy needs to involve the widest range of people and yet the format of reports and the use of jargon puts off all but the most dedicated.  How can we present local decision making so it’s less obscure like modern jazz, and more popular, like rock and roll?
    [we’ve worked on this challenge at a previous Maker Day, and some participants want to have another go at it, as there are many small things we could do to help – do you agree?]
  • Connected Candidates: High turnouts in local elections are a mark of a healthy democracy and yet many people have no motivation to participate.  How can we get people connected to their candidates so that they will see a reason to vote?
    [Democracy Club are already doing some great work to crowdsource local election candidates for 2016 – are you interested in sharing elections data or talking about what else is possible?]
  • Young People: The young people of today are the voters of tomorrow and yet many see local politics as irrelevant.  How can we get young people involved in local democracy so they have a voice, both now and in the future? 
    [this is really important to many of us. We have some amazing young participants at our main Notwestminster event, but we don’t currently have any young people signed up to our Maker Day – and we can’t work on this challenge without input from young people. Shall we save this for another day, or should we try to involve more young people on Friday 12th February?]



Please try to let us know by 12 noon on Tuesday 26th January 2016.

You can leave a reply on this page, email us at or tweet us @LDBytes.

Please tell us about:

  • Challenges that you’re interested in.
  • Anything not listed here that you’d like us to work on.
  • Anything else you’d like to say about the Maker Day.

All comments and suggestions welcome. 

This is just to help us pick the right challenges for our network. If you’re going to be here on the day, you can join any group (or more than one group) to work on whatever takes your fancy. You can also follow online during the event.


How Notwestminster workshops are helping us do democracy differently

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User stories workshop
User Stories workshop at #notwestminster – photo NotWestminster (4 of 30) by Anthony Mckeown


Notwestminster workshops are a really useful way of debating local democracy issues, generating ideas and making practical changes to the way we do democracy. Our focus is on turning our discussions into action, so from each workshop we’re asking participants to come up with one practical suggestion that we can act on between us. 

In 2015 our participants hosted workshops about elections content, public values, open data, youth engagement, the lean startup approach, what councils might look like in the future… and lots more. We’re looking for 2016 workshop ideas now, and we have a series of Design Challenges for Local Democracy to help get you started. If you’re interested in running a workshop, you can pitch a workshop idea now.

Perhaps the most important way that our workshops have helped our participants is by creating connections between people who have an enthusiasm for local democracy. Here are three examples from some of our 2015 workshop hosts, showing how Notwestminster can help us to work together to do local democracy differently…

1. User stories

At Notwestminster 2015 Dave Mckenna collected lots of local democracy user stories. We gave out cards and encouraged people to drop their user stories into our ballot box throughout the day, then we sorted through all the cards in the closing workshop and talked about each one in turn. It was an excellent discussion and very revealing about the things that our participants find most frustrating as users of local democracy. The user story which got the biggest reaction was this:

“As a local resident

I need to see council reports in a form I can easily digest

so I can understand the decisions that are being made”

We continued the discussion online and soon came up with a few ideas:
Four ways to make council reports more digestible

City and County of Swansea quickly introduced summaries for all of their scrutiny publications in Swansea as a direct result of this workshop.

[Dave Mckenna hosted our 2015 workshop User Stories for Local Democracy]

2. Open Government

“At Notwestminster we discussed ideas for making government more transparent, engaging and accountable. Since, we have crowdsourced an Open Government Manifesto to collect the best open government ideas from citizens and civil society across the UK, In total, 79 ideas were collected through a series of workshops and an online platform, which were developed and condensed into 28 proposals. These include two related to local government, to “Establish an Open Local Government Partnership” and “Include local governance and engagement frameworks as part of devolution deals“. The 28 proposals in the manifesto are now being discussed with government for possible inclusion in the UK’s new Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. You can get involved in this by joining the Open Government Network via the Open Government Forum.”

[Tim Hughes hosted our 2015 workshop Open Local Government: How can it be spread?]

3. Regional Democracy

One of the main outcomes of the workshop for me was an insight into the importance of language, and how it’s used to frame events that generate positive energy. Before the workshop I’d assumed that the momentum of the Scottish independence referendum meant that any conversation about devolution would inherit the same energy, but the Notwestminster event, along with other events at which I was in the audience, has led me to think “devolution” has technocratic feel that often drains the initial anger and frustration that people bring into the conversation. I don’t think this is just a question of language, but the word devolution doesn’t help.  

“I was already an active regional democracy campaigner before the workshop, and so I have continued to do the same things, but whenever I’m in a committed conversation about how to make great places to live and work in part of England’s north, I ask people to question the associations of the word devolution, and to consider the term “regional democracy” as an alternative. This suggestion has usually had a positive response, and I was one of the co-organisers of the What Kind of Region? event in Bradford, in which we tried to consistently use regional democracy rather than devolution:

Will the future of our region be about all of us?

[Andrew Wilson hosted our 2015 workshop Doing devolution without permission]

Your Notwestminster 2016 workshop ideas

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Share your workshop ideas
Together we’ve identified a series of Design Challenges for Local Democracy and we’re looking for practical ideas in response to these. Want to help shape our conversations?

We’d love to hear from anyone who would like to run a 50 minute workshop with a distinctly democratic flavour in Huddersfield on Saturday 13th February 2016. Your workshop should relate to one of our design challenges. Some examples are:

  • Young people – How can we get young people involved in local democracy?
  • Access to decision makers – How can we encourage real contact between those making the decisions and those affected by them?
  • Voter information – How can we make sure voters in the local elections get the facts and figures they need?
  • Digestible democracy – How can we make it less obscure like jazz, more popular like rock n roll?
  • Open data – How can we better share the data of local democracy?
  • Community News & Campaigns – How can we connect enthusiasts and help citizens to tell the story?

Please have a look at our full list and catch up with the story so far:

Design Challenges for Local Democracy

What we did at our Local Democracy Maker Day #LDMaker15


What are we looking for?

Workshops can be in any format you choose, from open discussions to practical creative sessions. Talk about something, build something or dismantle something.

If your proposal is accepted, your responsibility is to frame the challenge in a way that’s easy for a wide range of participants to understand and get involved in, then together work out one practical thing we could do to meet the challenge.

But the workshop is not a teaching session – your introduction should last no more than 10 minutes. After that, your role is to bring out the best from the group.

The outcome of your workshop should be one practical suggestion for redesigning local democracy – and the names of anyone in the room who is willing to help make it happen. We’ll give you an ideas sheet (both on paper and online) to record this on.

The final session of the day will be an informal ideas bazaar where you can have a drink, take a look at all the practical ideas from the day and do a spot of plotting.

share your idea for a Notwestminster workshop.