We want to build a more vibrant democracy, where everyone can shape a society that works for all of us.
We need to make important choices as a society. But politics often doesn't work as it should.
Most people don’t have enough say in the decisions that affect their lives. Existing power structures mean that some groups of people have less influence than others. Decision-makers struggle to get things done. And many people’s trust in politics is low.
But we believe things can be different. We believe our current politics and democracy must evolve to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.
We have a vision of a vibrant democracy, with people at the heart of decision-making.
What's the problem?
People are frustrated that politics is not working for them. And in many ways, it’s not.
Our current political system concentrates power in the hands of a few, and leaves many feeling powerless. This can apply to the biggest global issues, right through to local decisions. Far too often, people feel decisions are made without their input.
This system does not connect decision-makers and the public well. It relies heavily on elections to understand the “will of the people'' and transmit their policy preferences into action. However, elections provide very poor information about public preferences on the details of issues - often, politicians can’t be sure what truly represents the “public will”.
In between elections, it can be hard to understand what people want and why they want it. Opinion polling and focus groups give a snapshot of views, but do not usually dig into the trade-offs necessary in decision-making. While they provide evidence, they don’t give any real power in decision making to the public. Politicians hear a constant deluge of competing opinions, with no sense of where the common ground might lie.
Our politics encourages us to look for disagreement and identify winners and losers, rather than reach for consensus. And this means some issues are simply put into the “too difficult box” and decision-makers fear political, public, and media backlash. This is not a recipe for building a strong, cohesive and prosperous society or securing economic, social and political justice.
Public services that people access often feel unresponsive to their needs. In doing “to” people rather than “with” them, these services fail to benefit from their lived experience and the assets people can bring to tackle problems affecting them.
While many of these issues have been building pressure below the surface for decades, they have reached a tipping point in the past couple of years. Our democracy has become defined by disillusionment, polarisation and disconnection, and dominated by a toxic and symbiotic mix of elitism and populism.
What's the solution?
Things can be different. We have a vision of vibrant democracy, with people at the heart of decision-making.
We believe that decision-making in the UK needs to be more:
- Open - so that people can understand, influence and hold decision-makers to account for the actions and inactions of their governments;
- Participatory - so that people have the freedom, support and opportunity to shape their communities and influence the decisions that affect their lives; and,
- Deliberative - so that people can exchange and acknowledge different perspectives, understand conflict and find common ground, and build a shared vision for society.
There are a huge number of democratic innovations - from citizens’ assemblies to crowdlaw, citizens’ initiatives to co-production - that put people at the heart of decision-making by modelling these values.
At Involve, we believe these democratic innovations can…
Shift power to people on the issues that affect their lives
From citizens’ juries to online crowdsourcing, there are a huge number of ways that people can be involved in the decisions that affect them, their families and their communities. A democracy with openness, participation and deliberation at its heart would use these tools to ensure that decisions are rooted in the views and values of the public. This would create public services responsive to people’s needs and making the most of their strengths. It would ensure that political power is more evenly distributed throughout society.
Connect the public better with decision makers, to increase trust
Participatory and deliberative democracy makes a powerful counterpart to representative democracy - but isn’t a replacement. Most citizens respect the role of decision-makers and most decision-makers want a better relationship with citizens. A democracy with openness, participation and deliberation at its heart would enable constructive and ongoing dialogue, ensuring that the public understands the constraints of decision-makers and the trade-offs that must be made. And it would mean decision-makers understand people’s views and values.
Bring people together to solve our most complex and challenging issues
People can cope with complex and challenging issues if they are trusted. In fact, involving the public is often the best – and only – way to overcome political stalemate and solve the most controversial and challenging topics. Leveraging the power and common sense of ordinary people helps improve difficult decisions, decide on trade-offs, and organise collective action to address the complex challenges that we face.
Help people find common ground with others and end polarisation
Dialogue is essential for bridging divides between communities and building a strong, cohesive and prosperous society. When people come face-to-face and are given the opportunity to work together on a shared task, they build understanding and trust and often find they agree on many more things than they disagree. A democracy with openness, participation and deliberation at its heart would enable us to understand different perspectives, negotiate our differences and build a shared vision for society.