Published on November 16, 2015

Room for inclusion and diversity?

NHS Citizen Open government Participation Compass People & participation

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.

Congratulations, you've organised an all male panelSince we published Room for a View a month ago, one of the most fascinating lines of debate has been around its implications for inclusion and diversity.

Some responses have suggested that the systems-based analysis doesn’t address a vital issue relating to the quality of our democracy; the inclusion of marginalised and excluded groups within the different components of the system in such a way that they impact on decisions taken.

But I believe a deliberative democratic systems analysis creates a new democratic values argument for why we must work to ensure that marginalised groups (including those who are on low-incomes, in poverty, disabled, LGBT, women or from minority ethnic backgrounds) are adequately represented within the public space on an on going and sustained basis, beyond the constraints of electoral democracy.

A central theme of Room for a View for me is the emphasis it places on ensuring that minority views, perspectives and narratives are heard if we are to say that a system is genuinely democratic.

Room for a View therefore has important implications for our democracy given the impact that poverty or disability, for example, can have on people’s ability to genuinely participate or contribute within the deliberative system. It therefore raises questions about what we need to do to get to the point where all members of society can genuinely participate and get their voices heard and acted on. For example, sociologists such as Peter Townsend have already explored how poverty often has an enormous impact on people’s ability to participate – demonstrating a clear link between levels of income and levels of participation within the deliberative system.

So, accepting the premise of Room for a View means that we need to work much harder for the inclusion of marginalised voices in order to create a more legitimate democratic system. This matters in democratic systems where the ‘’majority’’ may well just be those who are more able to get their views taken up within the public space, and are therefore more likely to have those views accepted or considered by the empowered and private spaces. It is very much a corollary of the analysis presented that we need to ask how to create the most inclusive democratic spaces possible if we want to ensure genuine deliberation across the democratic system.

Room for a View then is very much a starting point for a conversation about what genuine inclusion and participation looks like. I look forward to building on it by collaborating with organisations, interest groups and individuals about how we can create that inclusive democratic spaces where there genuinely is room for the excluded, marginalised view; as well as what, practically, needs to be done to ensure that all individuals can participate, are listened to and empowered within our democracy.


2 Responses to “Room for inclusion and diversity?”

  1. November 23, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Hi Simon,

    You might be interested in my ’empathy=action’ work. It aims to give marginalised groups a voice in the local and national policy arena. It is a qualitative approach based in ethnographical research methods. The aim is to achieve deep engagement (cultural immersion) and to use video to create a digital stories. Hard to explain in a blog response, but may be worth a look.

    The methodology is replicable, cost effective and transformative. It could work with any group, from marginalised cultural groups to supermarket customers. I have no commercial interest in the work, it was simply an engagement project we ran over four years working with 13 marginalised groups in Wiltshire – live-aboard boaters, gypsies and travellers, stroke survivors, polish migrants, rural poor, young carers, NEETS, army wives, people with dementia, blind, learning disabilities, older people and social housing scheme residents. Many insights and many positive outcomes delivered through empathetic approaches.

  2. Simon Burall
    Simon Burall
    November 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm


    Thanks for the comment. It looks like something that I need to spend a bit of time with, but really valuable. I’m going to come back to it in due course.


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