We believe passionately in a democracy where citizens are able to take and influence the decisions that affect their lives.
Since our foundation in 2004, we have partnered with international, national and local organisations – including the OECD, Open Government Partnership, Cabinet Office, NHS England, Scottish Government, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups – to transform how the public sector engages with citizens and communities.
We focus on the practical reality of public participation, to bring about:
We work with organisations committed to involving citizens in meaningful ways. Read more about what we do.
Registered Charity No – 1130568
Registered Company No – 05669443
The challenges that society faces today – from climate change and international terrorism, to public health and pensions – are complex. The solutions to these challenges require trade-offs between different generations, geographic communities and interest groups. These trade-offs in turn require knowledge and experience far beyond what any public authority can command alone. As a result, we have entered an era where progress is only possible if citizens, communities, public service providers and other stakeholders are able and willing to contribute to the solution.
This context demands that public participation is built into the core of what government does. Government can no longer afford to think of citizens as the subject of public policy, but needs to recognise that they are also its architects and implementers through their everyday choices and actions. Public participation provides a way for our governments, public services and communities to make better use of the creativity, energy, resources, skills and knowledge of all.
Experience and research has shown that, when done well, public participation can:
More broadly, public participation is integral to both better governance and rebuilding trust. It increases the democratic legitimacy of decision-making and is the vital link between transparency and accountability. It ensures that citizens are aware of, and can influence and respond to, government decisions.
It also reflects the changing nature of society. Over time the public has grown less deferential towards authority. Public participation will play a key role in the new relationships needed between elected representatives and their constituents, and between state institutions and citizens.
In an age of hostility towards politics and unprecedented scrutiny, public participation can strengthen governance – building democratic legitimacy and accountability – and reconnect institutions with the people they are meant to serve.
Our work is underpinned by strong values and an overarching commitment to respecting those we work with.
We work in partnership with decision-makers, citizens and other organisations, respecting the contributions of different groups and building innovative solutions to collective problems. We undertake to be as transparent and accountable as possible with our partners, the citizens that we work with and society at large. We are always learning and reflecting – stepping back to look at our work in terms of the outcome and impact it delivers as well as the bigger picture.
Everyone in society has an equal right to be listened to and participate in decisions that affect their lives. No one should be held back by societal divisions or prejudice. Those in power have a special responsibility to bring in voices from the margins whose contributions are often overlooked. Doing so can surface new ideas, challenges, networks and assets that will make solutions more durable, and build greater trust in institutions and cohesion across communities. It’s crucial to address power imbalances so that people are not just able to participate, but comfortable doing so.
Participation shouldn’t be done for the sake of it; there should always be a clear purpose. The time, money, and commitment invested by both institutions and citizens should be treated with respect. Equally, public participation isn’t the solution to every problem. Our contribution is part of the journey towards a more inclusive and sustainable world, which involves many different people and approaches.