Simon Burall


Simon Burall is the Director of Involve. He has long and extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, open government, public participation, stakeholder engagement, accountability and transparency, scientific and technology innovation and organisational change. He has worked at the local and national level in Africa, Asia and Europe as well as on related issues of global governance and democracy.

In his role with Involve, Simon has worked with and advised many organisations including Number 10, the Cabinet Office, the Scottish Government, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, NHS England, the UK Civil Society Network on Open Government, UNDP, OECD, the World Bank, the European Economic and Social Council, as well as at local level with numerous local authorities and other public bodies.

Simon has published extensively on issues related to democracy, participation, accountability and transparency.

Simon is currently Chair of the Advisory Group for the RSA's Citizens' Economic Council, a member of the Public Engagement with Research Advisory Panel for Research Councils UK and a Fellow WWF UK. He was Head of Dialogue and a member of the Programme Board for Sciencewise between 2012 and 2016, and a member of the Steering Committee from 2010-2012.

He was a trustee and member of Council for Voluntary Services Overseas from 1997-2007, and a Trustee and Chair of Democratic Audit, 2008-2014.

Before moving to Involve Simon was a Research Fellow at ODI from 2006 – 2009. His interests included stakeholder engagement in the reform of the international aid delivery system and the effectiveness of development finance. Prior to this he was the Executive Director of the One World Trust from 1999 – 2005 where he initiated and oversaw the development of the influential Global Accountability Index. Simon has taught English in Namibia and science in Zimbabwe, and was an election monitor in Bosnia Herzegovina after the Dayton Agreement.

Simon has a BA in Natural Sciences and a PGCE from Cambridge University, and an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS.

Associated programmes

Blog posts

St Ethelburga's

EVENT Trump and Brexit: What’s your take?

November 14, 2016

Our friends and colleagues at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace are organising a participatory dialogue event exploring what is beneath the surface of the recent political upheavals. This will take place November 17th, 2016 18:30. They say, "with input from two 'provocative animators', we will engage deeply with questions of cultural, economic and generational division,…

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Striding Edge

Democracy: it’s complicated

November 4, 2016

Following the High Court ruling that Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50, the newspapers are full of competing descriptions of democracy. At its simplest level, this appears to be a debate about where the decision lies, with citizens through the ballot box, or vested in the democratically elected Parliament. On the Leave side, the…

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Beyond the Vote: Democratic innovation

November 3, 2016

I was in Australia at the end of last month for the Open State Festival. I took part in a number of different events over the course of the two weeks. I've already blogged about my contribution to IAP2 Australasia's Annual Conference here during the first week. I took part in two different panel discussions focusing on Democratic Innovation during…

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Broken egg on table

Can more public participation fix our broken democracy?

October 26, 2016

I’m fortunate to be attending the two week long Open State Festival in Adelaide, South Australia. There are over 60 events covering the future of leadership, of cities, money, technology and democracy. I’m speaking and participating; it’s been both exciting and really challenging to my thinking. In this blog post I thought I’d digest part…

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Open prisons?

October 20, 2016

Prisons are, in a very obvious sense, closed institutions. For the prisoners at least they must be, playing as they do an important role for society; both punishing those who commit crimes by depriving them of their freedom, and also supporting rehabilitation and ultimately preventing reoffending. But they are closed in another sense too; it…

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telephone cables

A tactical retreat?

October 4, 2016

Our democracy is a complex system of institutions making decisions that affect the lives of citizens in obvious and less obvious ways. It consists of institutions at every level, from the very local parish council, through local authorities, the network of organisations delivering services, Parliament and the Government in Whitehall, all the way through to…

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presentation image

How to get engagement wrong in one easy step

September 9, 2016

There are so many examples of exciting and successful public engagement processes, for example: Citizens juries; Citizen assemblies; Deliberative dialogues; Online budget calculators; or Online forums. * These are a vindication of the work of organisations like Involve. In spite of common perceptions that the public are somehow incapable of dealing with complex and controversial…

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Why engage the public just after they’ve voted?

September 7, 2016

The total cost of the EU referendum, according to the BBC, was £142m. And all commentators and politicians appear to agree that the question has been definitively answered, “Brexit means Brexit”. On this basis some would find it hard to justify spending more time and money reaching out to the public to engage them in…

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Reflections on #reframe16

July 28, 2016

Involve and King’s College London co-hosted a gathering of facilitators last Friday. Involve proposed the gathering to explore whether there was a role for individuals and organisations with facilitation, conflict resolution and engagement skills in supporting communities in the UK to find a way through the challenges posed by the EU-referendum result. This post is…

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Why don’t we trust the experts? |

July 5, 2016

This post explores research that suggests the reason experts aren't trusted is as much to do with whether the expert is judged to have our best interests at heart or not. Which means that experts are less likely to be trusted “by people who feel alienated from them.” Visit the site

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