At a glance

The Democratic Society, mySociety & the RSA
January 2019 to March 2020
Project Type: 

The Innovation in Democracy Programme will support 3 local authorities to involve citizens in decision-making through innovative models of deliberative democracy. Involve, the Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA will provide support to each of the local authorities to design, run and report on their deliberative mini-public1, as well as capture and share their learning.

The programme was announced during the summer as part of the UK Government's Civil Society Strategy:

The government will launch the Innovation in Democracy programme to pilot participatory democracy approaches, whereby people are empowered to deliberate and participate in the decisions that affect their communities. The government will work with local authorities to trial face-to-face deliberation (such as Citizens’ Juries) complemented by online civic tech tools to increase broad engagement and transparency.

Following an expression of interest process, three local authorities were selected to join the programme:

  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council - Future of town centres
  • Greater Cambridge Partnership (Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council) - Improving public transport and tackling congestion
  • Test Valley Borough Council - Future of waste and recycling and / or vitality of town centres

Learning from the programme will be shared with other local authorities who are interested in new forms of citizen participation and practical use of deliberative democracy.

The programme is being jointly run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Involve, the Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA have been commissioned to provide each local authority with support to:

  • Design, run and report on their deliberative mini-public;
  • Develop a digital strategy to extend the reach, transparency, and accountability of the process; and,
  • Collect and share their learning within and beyond their local authorities.

Many people feel disempowered and disengaged from politics. This programme is an opportunity to get people involved in the decisions that affect their daily life.

Miriam Levin, Head of Community Action and Giving, DCMS

  • 1. A deliberative mini-public - such as citizens' juries and citizens' assemblies - brings together groups of randomly selected but demographically representative members of the public to learn about and discuss an issue, before reaching conclusions on what should be done.