participation

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 team@thepublicsquare.org.uk 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 www.thepublicsquare.org.uk

We look forward to speaking with you.

Mat and Michelle

The Democratic Society

Digital democracy: A panacea for youth disengagement?

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 Brainstorm by Jessica Lock from The Noun ProjectWorkshop idea by Dr Andrew Mycock and Simon Campbell-Skelling


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.


Digital democracy: A Panacea for youth disengagement?

The challenge:

Research suggests that younger citizens are less engaged in traditional forms of politics than previous generations. Only 44% of 18 to 24 year olds voted in 2010 UK General Election and there has been a marked decline in numbers of young people joining political parties. Young citizens claim they feel excluded from politics, do not trust politicians or understand the language they use, and have a residual sense of powerlessness. This disconnection is particularly acute in local forms of democracy.

There is a growing belief that ‘digital democracy’ has the potential to reverse this trend. 90% of all 16 to 24 year olds connected via the internet (Ofcom 2012). Politicians and others who are interested in our democracy increasingly view the internet and social media as having the potential to encourage and promote democratic engagement and participation amongst young people. Technology could also play a key role in developing political knowledge and understanding.

The workshop will explore what digital democracy is and how it can develop the role of young people in local and national forms of politics. It will draw on evidence from the recent My Country, My Vote project involving local schools in Kirklees, the participation of Kirklees Youth Council in the recent UK parliament commission on digital democracy, and other available youth citizenship research. It aims to encourage participants to consider the potential of digital democracy to:

  1. Enrich the representation of young citizens.
  2. Enhance youth-orientated policy-making.
  3. Empower young citizens to scrutinise (local) government.
  4. Enable new forms of youth citizen engagement.
  5. Encourage citizen dialogue.

#notwestminster #youth


Dr Andrew MycockDr Andrew Mycock
Reader in Politics
University of Huddersfield

Dr Andrew Mycock is Reader in Politics at the University of Huddersfield. His research interests focus on issues of youth citizenship and democratic participation. He served on the UK government’s Youth Citizenship Commission from 2008 to 2009. He recently contributed to the UK Parliament Digital Democracy Commission project, ‘Hardcopy or #Hashtag: Young people’s vision for a digital parliament’.

 


Simon Campbell-Skelling
Community Heritage and Education Officer

Simon Campbell-Skelling works for Kirklees Council’s Community Heritage and Outreach Team. He is currently working on My Country My Vote. This is a partnership project between the council and the University of Huddersfield which seeks to encourage greater, and more positive, political engagement amongst young people.

Experimenting with participation: lean startup approach

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 Brainstorm by Jessica Lock from The Noun ProjectWorkshop idea by Peter Lewis


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.


Experimenting with participation: lean startup approach

The challenge:

It’s easy to have lots of ideas about how to increase participation in decisions affecting local topics, but how do you know which ideas are good ones? I founded voXup during the final year of my PhD as an idea about what would motivate people to take part in local decision making – specifically, is a nice feedback loop a good enough incentive? I’ll share this experience as an example.


#notwestminster #startup


Peter LewisPeter Lewis
@realPeterLewis & @voXupUK
voXup.co.uk

Peter started thinking about participation in local democracy when he should have been concentrating on his PhD in theoretical physics, in late 2013. When thinking alone seemed to be insufficient to effect any real change, he went to a local pub with an idea about how to create feedback loops between the people who live in a place and those who take decisions affecting it. This idea – now voXup.co.uk – won places on the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator (a Cabinet Office and Nesta backed ‘tech for good’ accelerator in London) and Google’s first European startup ‘Launchpad’ week, and has now completed thousands of feedback loops encouraging easy, habitual participation in London and beyond.


Open Local Government: How can it be spread?

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 Brainstorm by Jessica Lock from The Noun ProjectWorkshop idea by Tim Hughes


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.


Open Local Government: How can it be spread?

The challenge:

How can greater transparency, participation and accountability across local government be best achieved? What (if anything) is the role for national government, councillors, officers, national & local civil society, media and others in encouraging its spread?

Transparency, participation and accountability are critical to democracy at any level of government. While initiatives are being established to support its spread nationally and internationally, there are no such initiatives to support open local government in the UK.

The UK is a member of an international initiative called the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which supports governments to introduce transparency, participation and accountability reforms. It does this by encouraging a race-to-the-top and peer exchange between countries, securing high level political buy-in for reform, and requiring engagement with civil society in countries.



The OGP provides the opportunity to secure reforms from the UK government that could support greater transparency, participation and accountability in local government. However, perhaps more powerfully, the OGP may provide the template for an initiative that supports local governments and civil society to exchange and compete to introduce open government reforms.



I coordinate the UK Open Government Civil Society Network, and am passionate about encouraging and supporting greater openness throughout institutions. I am keen to explore what this could and should mean in local government.


#notwestminster #opengov


Tim HughesTim Hughes
@TimJHughes
Open Government Programme Manager
UK Open Government Civil Society Network coordinator

Tim Hughes is Open Government Programme Manager at Involve, with expertise in public participation and open government. He has advised governments at a local, national and international level on engagement, and has written extensively on topics covering public participation, open government and active citizenship. Tim coordinates the UK Open Government Civil Society Network – a coalition of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK – and is an active member of the Open Government Partnership’s international community.