Published on March 4, 2014

Democratic Innovations

By Tim Hughes

Tim is director of Involve. He took over leadership of the organisation in January 2017, having previously led Involve’s open government programme and the UK Open Government Network (OGN).

Back at the beginning of February, I attended Professor Graham Smith’s inaugural lecture at the University of Westminster on the subject of Democratic Innovations. Graham’s work is well worth checking out for anyone interested in participatory governance and democracy. I’d particularly recommend:

Before rushing off to get those, check out the video from his lecture – which I’ve posted below – for an introduction to Graham’s work. Here’s a bit of a blurb for the lecture from Westmister University:

At a time when there is mounting evidence of growing disillusionment with the traditional institutions of advanced industrial democracies, there is increasing interest in new ways of involving citizens in the political decisions that affect their lives. Participatory budgeting that originated in Brazil demonstrates how ordinary citizens can take control over the distribution of significant proportions of municipal budgets; the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, a randomly-selected body in British Columbia, suggests how citizens can be empowered in the process of constitutional change; and experiments in online engagement open up new possibilities. This lecture makes the theoretical and practical argument for more systematic attention within political science and democratic theory to democratic innovations: institutions explicitly designed to increase and deepen citizen participation in the political decision-making process. Consideration of the design of democratic innovations forces us to reflect on how we are governed and how we might better institutionalise the democratic ideal. The lecture examines recent research that asks under what conditions are democratic innovations effectively institutionalised. Such research makes a significant contribution to the imaginative and practical task of exploring what democracy might mean and become.

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