Published on January 12, 2017

Changes at Involve: A thank you to Simon Burall

By Ed Mayo

Ed Mayo is chair of Involve and secretary general of Co-operatives UK, the national business association for co-operative and mutual enterprises. He is co-author of the book Consumer Kids, and is involved in a range of organisations and enterprises that promote a fairer and more sustainable economy.

It is with great pride that we look back on the last eight years Simon has spent as Director of Involve.  Simon has built a significant reputation, portfolio of projects and intellectual assets at Involve, as well as an energetic, committed and expert team of staff and trustees.  Anyone who has met Simon during that time will, I’m sure, have been left in no doubt of his deep commitment, great knowledge and well practised skills in opening up decision-making to citizens.

Simon’s achievements at Involve have been numerous. There is room here for a only a few of those that made the greatest impression on me. Amongst those is very clearly Simon’s leadership and innovation on open government. Under his leadership Involve has positioned itself as a world leading organisation in the open government movement. He has overseen the development of the UK Open Government Network, and ensured the UK’s Open Government Partnership process was established as a widely recognised model of good practice.

Simon’s tenure has also seen Involve lead the push for deliberative public engagement on complex and controversial science and technology innovations. Involve has strengthened the government’s Sciencewise programme, and pioneered new open models of policy making on government data sharing.

Finally, Simon has played a critical role in the thought leadership provided by Involve. He has made the case for deliberation and engagement across a raft of policy areas, developed Involve’s theory on deliberative systems, and innovated new models of citizen engagement on public services.

I am delighted that Simon will continue to work with Involve as Senior Associate, leading and expanding Involve’s portfolio of projects on public engagement around science, technology and data.

Whilst Simon’s departure as Involve’s Director marks the end of one chapter in Involve’s story, as with all endings it also marks a beginning. I, along with my fellow trustees, have great pleasure in appointing Tim Hughes as Involve’s new Director. Tim’s vision, expertise and dedication to Involve’s cause make his the strongest possible pair of hands to guide Involve into its next phase.

As Tim writes today, “If Involve didn’t exist, now would be the time to invent it”. Overcoming the triple threat of disillusionment, polarisation and disconnection will be one of the defining challenges of the decade to come. With our skills and expertise in citizen participation, open government, deliberation and facilitation, we believe that Involve is uniquely placed to take a leading role in facing that challenge.

I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that we look forward to working with Tim and his team as they set out a bold new strategy for Involve’s next steps.

Image credit: thank you, jen collins (Creative Commons)

2 Responses to “Changes at Involve: A thank you to Simon Burall”

  1. January 12, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    From 2009 to 2016 I led Alberta Climate Dialogue, a federally-funded community-university project in Alberta, Canada, the nearest large city to the tar sands. Involve — represented initially by Alice Casey and then by Simon — provided crucial expertise as we developed and researched innovative citizen involvement processes around climate mitigation and adaptation in a petro-state.

    Simon has been a wonderful presence and contributor through these processes, bringing to bear the deep learning of Involve and also his own curiosity and creativity about the challenging contexts and constraints within which we worked, and that we managed in some ways to shift.

    We also co-hosted a workshop in London and participated together in a recent retreat in British Columbia, both on how public involvement can influence complex systems — here too, Simon’s was a wise and lively voice as he spoke from the successes and also tough lessons of Involve’s ambitious work.

    My deep appreciation for Simon’s tremendous work to date in carrying Involve’s learning outward, and my best wishes to Tim as he steps into those big and weathered shoes.

  2. Simon Burall
    Simon Burall
    January 17, 2017 at 9:15 am

    David, thank you so much for your kind words. I have found working with you so stimulating and enriching. I’ve learnt a lot from you and am enjoying being a (necessarily distant) part of the next stage of your work. I look forward to working with you into the future.

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