Date: 23 Oct 2014

Social media and local political representation: a game changer or all hype?

By Sonia Bussu

Dr Sonia Bussu is a researcher at Involve. She is passionate about increasing citizen voice in public policy (so much so that she did a PhD on the topic) and over the past few years she has been involved in several research projects on citizen participation in policy-making.

GERMANY, Bonn, "Online" - Human miniatures on a computer keyboard.

Date: 23 October 2014

Digital could mean a real opportunity for local politicians to improve and adapt interaction and engagement with communities so that the public is much more engaged on its own terms, through an approach that is less institutionally-focused and more citizen-driven.  But does it?

This event explores how new technologies and social media are impacting local democracy and the relationship between the networked councillor and the local community. Developments in social media mean that in principle constituents can now count on many more immediate channels to access their political representatives and put their concerns and ideas directly to them. By the same token, local elected representatives can now use a low cost platform to communicate with their constituency as often as they like.

The event is conceived as a facilitated conversation between local policy actors, civil society practitioners and academics to discuss some key questions and draw lessons:

  • What are the implications of greater use of digital and social media for the relationship between councillors and citizens? Does it change the way representatives work and the way we understand responsiveness? Does it disrupt established practices and institutions? Or is it all hype?!
  • Will new technologies widen the political space or increase populism? Will they create new forms of inequality in accessing power – whoever shouts (tweets?!) more?
  • What new types of representatives are empowered?
  • How does this new unmediated interaction influence constituents’ perception of their local representatives?What lessons can be learnt from case studies in the UK and abroad?


Steve Clift Founder and Executive Director of

Dan Jellinek Founder of Headstar and Author of  ‘People power’


“Wired” councillors sharing their experience:

Councillor Tim Cheetham, LGA Improvement and Innovation Board

Councillor Liz Green Opposition spokesperson for Policy, Kingston upon Thames


University of Westminster
The Boardroom
309 Regents Street London W1B 2HW


2pm – 5pm

(registration starts at 1.30pm)

Huge thanks to Professor Graham Smith for hosting this event at The Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University.

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