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United Kingdom

Innovation in Democracy Programme (UK0095)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)

Support Institution(s): Other actors involved - government DCMS, MHCLG, LAs participating in the pilots Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc Democracy Support Contractor consortium delivering programme: Involve, The Democratic Society, MySociety and the RSA. Evaluator: Renaisi. Innovation in Democracy Programme Advisory Group made up of practitioners and academics from across the world.

Policy Areas

Local Commitments, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Objective
To deliver a programme to involve citizens in local decision making in Local
Authorities through trialling innovative models of deliberative democracy,
complemented by a digital engagement strategy to broaden reach and
transparency.

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Between elections, the majority of UK citizens will experience very little
influence in Government decision making at a local and national level.
We must continue to pursue new ways to involve citizens in Government
decision making; stimulate dialogue and promote understanding of the impact
of policymaking on everyday life. Both through promoting the benefits of such
engagement, to citizens and Government officials and decision makers, and by
sharing best practice and building skills and capability within Government.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
People are most likely to engage where they see the everyday impact of the
decisions that are made, and feel they can make a difference by being
involved.
We will be supporting local authorities (LAs) to pilot ‘Area Democracy Forums’
to empower participants to deliberate and make recommendations on a
decision that the LA has to make, leading to real impact on local policy
development and delivery. The face-to-face participation will be
complemented by digital platforms to increase engagement and transparency.

Lead implementing organisation
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in partnership
with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)

Timeline
Spring 2019 - Spring 2020

OGP values
Civic participation - Creating or improving opportunities or capabilities for the
public to inform or influence decisions

Other actors involved - government
DCMS, MHCLG, LAs participating in the pilots

Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc
Democracy Support Contractor consortium delivering programme: Involve, The
Democratic Society, MySociety and the RSA. Evaluator: Renaisi. Innovation in
Democracy Programme Advisory Group made up of practitioners and
academics from across the world.

Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the
commitment

Appoint Democracy Support Contractor (following an
open competition)

Appoint local authorities which will take part in
programme (following an open competition)

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Innovation in democracy programme

Main Objective

“To deliver a programme to involve citizens in local decision making in Local Authorities through trialing innovative models of deliberative democracy, complemented by a digital engagement strategy to broaden reach and transparency.

Between elections, the majority of UK citizens will experience very little influence in Government decision making at a local and national level.

We must continue to pursue new ways to involve citizens in Government decision making; stimulate dialogue and promote understanding of the impact of policymaking on everyday life. Both through promoting the benefits of such engagement, to citizens and Government officials and decision makers, and by sharing best practice and building skills and capability within Government.

People are most likely to engage where they see the everyday impact of the decisions that are made, and feel they can make a difference by being involved.

We will be supporting local authorities (LAs) to pilot ‘Area Democracy Forums’ to empower participants to deliberate and make recommendations on a decision that the LA has to make, leading to real impact on local policy development and delivery. The face-to-face participation will be complemented by digital platforms to increase engagement and transparency.”

Milestones

  1. Appoint Democracy Support Contractor (following an open competition)
  2. Appoint local authorities which will take part in programme (following an open competition)
  3. Pilots delivered.
  4. Evaluation

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see the United Kingdom’s action plan at https://bit.ly/2YPqNoV.

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Civic Participation

Potential impact:

Minor

 

Commitment Analysis

According to the UK’s action plan, citizens currently have limited opportunities to influence government decision making in the UK between elections, particularly at the local level. In addition, there are many citizens of local communities that local authorities do not hear from or are not listening to. [22] Therefore, this commitment aims to pilot “Area Democracy Forums” (in the format of citizens’ assemblies) in local authorities to increase the opportunities for citizens to become involved in decision making at the local level and over issues that affect their communities and their everyday lives. The Area Democracy Forums also aim to encourage new relationships and build trust between citizens and local authorities and strengthen local civil society by encouraging participation in local institutions. [23] Lastly, these assemblies aim to bring together a representative sample of the areas and encourage those who would not normally be part of the local decisions to have their voices heard. [24]

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as the pilot Area Democracy Forums aim to encourage citizens to participate in decision making in local authorities through citizen assemblies. The specific activities include appointing a “Democracy Support Contractor”, appointing local authorities to take part in the pilot programme (the Innovation in Democracy Programme - IiDP) and developing an evaluation of lessons learned. Although the action plan notes that 8-10 local authorities will participate in the pilot Area Democracy Forums, this number was reduced to three authorities during the roll out of the programme. [25] The pilots will be organised in collaboration with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and several CSOs, including Involve, mySociety and Democratic Society, among others. According to a representative from Involve, DCMS and MHCLG will establish an advisory panel for the IiDP and provide funding for direct costs for delivery of the programme. [26] The CSO partners will provide design and logistical support the participating authorities in delivering the pilot assemblies. This support will include facilitating online engagement, organising a peer learning network for participating and other local authorities, and organising a conference at the conclusion of the programme. [27]

If successfully carried out, the pilot citizens’ assemblies and the lessons learned could help improve citizens’ ability to participate in decision making on local topics that affect their everyday lives. Topics of discussion will cover issues of public concern related to health, wellbeing, the environment and the local economy. [28] Also, if scaled up or expanded to other local authorities, the citizens’ assemblies could make local authorities more responsive to public needs and priorities throughout the country. Ultimately, the potential impact of the assemblies will depend on how successfully they are carried out, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The CSO Involve has developed a digital strategy to extend the reach, transparency and accountability of the process and collect and share the local authorities’ learning within and beyond their authority. [29] Involve will also adjust how it supports the assemblies, shifting to predominantly online delivery for the first six months of 2021 and focusing on inclusion and accessibility (as it has done in previous face-to-face events), given the challenges this can pose to some participants. [30]

Moving forward, the IRM recommends that the civil society partners continue developing and utilising digital engagement platforms for the citizens’ assemblies and consider expanding the programme to cover more local authorities. In addition, the IRM recommends that participating local authorities embed feedback mechanisms within their citizen assemblies (utilising formats that work best for each local authority) to ensure participants receive detailed responses from local officials on how their input was considered.

[22] Lizzie Adams, Project & Governance Lead, Involve, email correspondence with IRM, 16 December 2020.
[23] Involve, The Innovation in Democracy Programme and its Lessons for Deliberative Democracy, https://www.involve.org.uk/resources/blog/opinion/innovation-democracy-programme-and-its-lessons-deliberative-democracy
[24] Lizzie Adams, Project & Governance Lead, Involve, email correspondence with IRM, 16 December 2020.
[25] For more information of the citizen assembly case studies, see https://www.involve.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/IiDP%20case%20studies.pdf
[26] Lizzie Adams, Project & Governance Lead, Involve, email correspondence with IRM, 16 December 2020.
[27] Ibid.
[29] Involve, The Innovation in Democracy Programme and its Lessons for Deliberative Democracy, https://www.involve.org.uk/resources/blog/opinion/innovation-democracy-programme-and-its-lessons-deliberative-democracy
[30] Lizzie Adams, Project & Governance Lead, Involve, email correspondence with IRM, 16 December 2020.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership