Temi Ogunye, Citizens Advice, blogged for Democratic Audit in response to the launch of Involve’s new report, Room for a View, by our director Simon Burall. We’ve cross posted the blog from the Democratic Audit site below.
Simon Burall’s Room for a View, is an important and timely contribution to the on-going debate on democratic reform and renewal in the UK. He rightly points out that assessments of the health of democracy should not focus on electoral participation alone; what happens outside of elections and Parliament matters crucially too.
Citizens Advice welcomes a conversation about how to reform our democracy so that it works better for citizens. Everyday, we help thousands of people to solve their problems by providing free, independent, confidential and impartial advice, online over the phone, and from 2,500 locations in communities across England and Wales. So we understand the realities and challenges of people’s day-to-day lives, and recognise that it is often an inability to make your voice heard and exert influence that brings people to our doors. This is why we care about democratic engagement, throughout the political cycle: because it enables people to have influence over the issues that matter to them, everyday.
Our view is that many democratic processes and channels for influence do not fit well with people’s lives. To do better, we need to reform democratic spaces so that they are simpler to understand, easier to access, and more responsive to citizens’ values and experiences. This means that democratic processes and channels for influence should record and be sensitive to user (i.e. citizen) experience, and be located where people spend time (both on and offline).
Simon Burall’s emphasis of the importance of the connections between different components of a democratic system – not just elections – speaks to Citizens Advice’s vision of a democracy where civic and public institutions create an environment within which all citizens can have influence and agency over the issues that matter to them, everyday. Room for a View is an important contribution towards that end.