Public Square – putting people at the heart of local government

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Public Square

A guest blog from The Democratic Society

Around the world democracy is struggling and needs strengthening. It’s time we ensured that people are placed at the heart of how decisions are made, how places are shaped, and how services are run. Local government is a key place where this vision will either be realised or sunk. In response to this challenge, Public Square is a two-year-long programme of research and action exploring how local government can go further in putting the voices of the people they serve at the heart of how they work. It is a collaboration between The Democratic Society and mySociety with funding from Luminate.

This exploration will be based on research in test sites across the UK where we will be working with councils and the communities they serve to look at what is already working well for involving people in the work of local government and what challenges and unmet needs remain. Drawing from this research we will then be prototyping techniques, approaches and tools that could respond to these gaps and push public participation to the next level. These resources we develop will be made freely available. We will also focus on making these resources work in a way that fits with other tools out there and that are freely adaptable by others.

We know that there are already many people working on this question. Often this is done from a wide range of different angles, and with advances not always being joined-up. A key aim of this programme is to reach out to this diverse community, learn from what is already known, and make sure that what we learn can have maximum impact for people working in this space. Throughout the project we will be sharing what we are working on and seeking views from people already working on this challenge.

How to get involved

Public Square really kicks off on 19th November 2018 with an event open to all at the People’s History Museum in Manchester where we will be learning together about where progress is at now and what is needed to take public participation further. You can sign up for free through this Eventbrite page: Public Square – register

We are also looking forward to speaking to people at The People’s Powerhouse Convention, Stakecamp and Notwestminster.

If you want to know more you can also get in touch with us through We are particularly keen to hear from councils who would like to take part in this programme of research. You can also follow our progress, and find ways of feeding in, through @PublicSquareUK and

We look forward to speaking with you.

Mat and Michelle

The Democratic Society


The Council of 2045

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 Brainstorm by Jessica Lock from The Noun ProjectWorkshop idea by Andrew Walker & colleagues

All of the workshops at Local Democracy for Everyone have been created by our participants. We’re sharing a summary of each workshop idea to help you decide what you’d most like to participate in – and so that everyone can start to share their comments about each idea.

The Council of 2045

The challenge:

Building strong communities who support and are supported by their local council requires cooperation, trust, empathy and the willingness to share power.

Imagine that in 2045 local government has been entirely cut off from Westminster. Councils no longer draw their powers or finance from central government. Instead they must focus on developing and sharing power with their own citizens.

In this workshop we will explore ways for diverse groups, with conflicting interests, to cooperate so that they can make important decisions and find ways to deepen democratic participation.

Fully participative decision making is complex and challenging. The aim of ‘The Council of 2045’ is to deepen our understanding of the decision making process.

#notwestminster #2045

Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker
Policy Researcher, Local Government Information Unit

Andrew Walker runs LGiU’s policy projects on innovation in local democracy, housing, and community management of public space.
His recent work includes Public Houses, an investigation in how local authorities can protect community pubs, Strong Foundations, which looks at the changing relationship between social landlords and their tenants, and House Proud, an analysis of local authority involvement with the Private Rented Sector.