What’s your one best hope for local democracy?

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Notwestminster is a community of people who have something positive to say about our local democracy. We’re up for the challenge of doing something to make our local democracy better. To mark the return of our annual event in Huddersfield, and so that more people can join in and connect with each other, we have a little challenge for you.

What’s your one best hope for local democracy? We’d love for you to share your response to this question with us online. It would be great if you can create a quick video clip or photo, so we can hear or see your one best hope, to share as your personal message for others in our network.

There are lots of reasons to be hopeful, because the future is unwritten. . .

How to take part

  1. Record a quick video clip of yourself, saying what your one best hope for local democracy is. Your clip can be a few seconds or up to a minute, filmed in landscape. If you don’t fancy the video option, you can write or draw your one best hope for local democracy and take a photo of this, in landscape format.
  2. Post your video clip or photo to twitter, including the hashtags #Notwestminster and #OneBestHope. You can share your hope anytime during February 2022. We’ll also be sharing your hopes as part of our Notwestminster event on 26th February.
  3. If you’d like, please email us your video file (or a link to where we can download it) so that we can make a compilation video of our hopes. You’re also welcome to email us your contribution if you’re not on twitter. Email us at:

In memory of our friend John Popham 

John lived in Huddersfield and many of you will recognise him as a familiar face at our Notwestminster events over the years. He was a big advocate of the power of digital technologies to connect people, and he loved to support people to tell their positive stories. Video was very much John’s thing.

Two weeks after our Notwestminster 2020 event, John was told that he had cancer. True to character, he used digital storytelling to find his way through the process of dealing with this, in the hopes of helping others who were going through similar challenges.

John’s family have asked that people remember him by continuing to be positive, by using social media for good and by keeping on asking ourselves how we can make someone else’s life better.


“Did you ever get that feeling that what you do has suddenly become a lot more personally relevant? . . . Let’s not go back to how it was before.”

John Popham, March 2020

What’s next for Notwestminster?

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Notwestminster participants

Join in our online get-together
Friday 26th February, 2pm to 4pm
Register now to take part

Notwestminster is for everyone who has something positive to say about our local democracy and anyone who is up for the challenge of making it better.

Although we can’t have our annual Notwestminster event in Huddersfield this February, we are still here for each other. And we’re still here for our local democracy.

You can come to Notwestminster to share your ideas and experiences, listen to others, learn new ways of doing things, be part of finding solutions to issues for our local democracy, bring your questions, share your aspirations, hear things that will spark your imagination, and meet lots of people who are at the heart of efforts to improve our local democracy, for everyone. 

Whilst we’re not able to gather, collaborate in the same room or talk over beer and curry in quite the same way this year, we’d love to hear your ideas about how we can best support each other over the coming months. This could be through some online workshops or more informal catch ups. We’re interested to hear what would work for you.

If you’ve already got involved in Notwestminster – or if you’d like to be involved – please come and take part in this informal online discussion about what happens next. You’ll be able to share:

  • Your thoughts about how connecting with people in the Notwestminster network could be useful for you and for your organisation this year.
  • Ideas for online discussions, talks, workshops or other activities that you’d like to be part of (or help to organise).
  • Something that you find valuable about Notwestminster events, which you’d like to see happening online.
  • Updates about things that Notwestminster has helped you to do.
  • Things that you’re currently working on, which you’d like to connect with others in our network about.

New to Notwestminster? We’ll share a quick introduction to what we do. 

We’ll also share an update about other work that’s happening in the UK to connect people who are working to strengthen our democracy. 

Please register if you’d like to take part, and we’ll send you a Zoom link nearer the time. 

If you have any questions, or if you can’t make it on the day but have ideas to share, please get in touch.

Register now to take part



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

What is democracy for?

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what is democracy for?You can try out mobile messaging before, during and after this year’s Notwestminster.

Have a think about this question:

“What is democracy for?”


Send a text starting with NOTWM
then your thoughts
to 07786 205 227

(it only costs the same as texting your friend’s phone)

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.


Help us to share our text experiment

Please print out a few copies of these instructions and leave them in a cafe, a pub or anywhere else where you live.

Print these instructions on A5 paper (PDF)

Print these instructions on A4 paper, two copies per sheet (PDF)


Where did the question come from?

Our question was asked by Anthony Zacharzewski,
as part of the evidence he gave to the
Kirklees Democracy Commission.

Why use 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 Camden


Thumbprint - share local knowledge by text message

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.