Date: 11 Jan 2014

Beyond representative democracy: adventures in trusting the public

By Simon Burall

Simon Burall is a Senior Associate of Involve. He has extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, governance, public participation, stakeholder engagement, and accountability and transparency.

Cover photo of Ursula Le Guin's 'The Dispossessed'On January 11th, I will be speaking at the Headstrong Club in Lewes. Here’s the blurb from the Club’s website. 

In her 1977 novel The Dispossessed, Ursula le Guin creates an egalitarian, anarchist society on the planet Anarres. Life on Anarres is hard, communal, but is portrayed as basically happy. However, after 150 years or so, the revolution starts to break down as authoritarian structures begin being developed.

The fight for democracy is often told as a fight about systems of government, different ways to cast our votes and constitutional change, but this is only part of the picture. However good it is, any system or constitution will eventually be subverted by those with power and money. In this talk Simon will explore experiments over the past 10 years or so to engage the public beyond the electoral cycle. He’ll draw on these to discuss ways in which the public voice could be more systematically brought into the way we make the most important decisions facing our country and their potential to hold decision-makers to account. He’ll contrast this to recent moves by the coalition government to introduce more direct democracy. While he’ll not chart a clear path to a mythical, happy, communal society, he’ll suggest a few faltering steps towards a system of government where the voices of citizens are heard and acted on more clearly, and might just keep our elected representatives on the straight and narrow.

Leave a Reply