Our democracy is in flux: The UK's last election saw a tearing down of the old right/left divisions with new cleavages emerging based on leave/remain, or city/country.
On every level huge social and economic disruptions are changing our sense of who we are and what we want; how we work; how we come together as communities; our trust in institutions; our expectations of public services; and our role and influence as citizens.
Civic participation and democracy can’t be a ‘tick one box, every 5 years’ exercise’ when people, the economy and societies are experiencing such radical shifts. Much of our democratic and participatory processes have not kept apace with these changes. We are limited by decades - if not centuries - of tradition and top down paternalistic design that has defined the engagement of citizens. Everyday Democracy as defined by Demos is:
“rooted in a culture in which democratic values and practices shape not just the formal sphere of politics, but the informal spheres of everyday life: families, communities, workplaces, and schools and other public services.”
We are seeing these radical shifts are leading to huge challenges but also opportunities, exciting innovations are emerging which are reshaping civic participation and everyday democracy. Whether it’s innovations that combat the spread of misinformation; approaches that promote campaign transparency and awareness; new ways of crowdsourcing key voter information; initiatives that coach and support excluded individuals to lead change; methods that create space for disagreement; work that fuels community led campaigning and youth activism; alternatives are becoming clear both online and offline - the field is burgeoning with ideas.
This new wave of innovations seek to enact this ‘Everyday Democracy’, harnessing the opportunities that new technologies bring, but also explore deeper and more effective ways for people to connect and create together in person.
These approaches point to a future democracy and society that is:
- better informed - deepening the knowledge and understanding of people individually and collectively; enabling institutions to better listen and engage with people, communities and expertise in new ways; enhancing the quality of information and factfulness; enabling people to engage in critical analysis and constructive conversations - be this within our media or communities, offline or online
- more inclusive and participatory - supporting more inclusive ways for people and communities to participate in decision making and take action; supporting people to feel and use their individual and collective power on the things they care about and to make changes for the greater good; enabling nuanced debate which respects and acknowledges difference
- more open, accessible and transparent - providing greater transparency of people, processes and results as the default; harnessing the power of data and technology to be more effective and open to all and providing feedback processes to shape future actions
- smarter and more creative - tapping into the creativity of people, communities and experts in more effective ways; harnessing new sources of ideas and insight including the better use of data; use of collective intelligence and more participatory processes
- based on increasing trust and accountability - supporting collaboration and cooperation as a default for society; developing approaches that move from blame to accountability; forging new roles and relationships between elected leaders, institutions and citizens.
Over the last decade Nesta has researched, championed and supported a range of innovations in civic participation and democracy: from our work making the case for more people powered public services in local government and health; ways to shape a more social impactful sharing economy; calling for a high energy democracy to support an inclusive economy; research and practical experimentation around digital democracy and participation with projects such as DCent; to more recent explorations of collective intelligence and participatory futures. We want to recognise and support pioneering innovations based in the UK that show how we can broaden and deepen civic participation and democracy to be fit for the future, and enables our society to be shaped by the people for the people.
To recognise and support this new wave of pioneering approaches, we launched an open call for innovations working to re-energise and reshape the future of civic participation and everyday democracy in the UK, through a £190,000 award.
A Judging Panel helped us select 19 winners who will each receive:
- £10,000 to support the development of their work
- Opportunities to showcase their work and ideas across a variety of local and national media, as well as Nesta communications
- The opportunity to work with Nesta and the other Democracy Pioneers collaboratively to champion this pioneering work, and create a case for what is needed to make civic participation and democracy fit in the decades to come.
By highlighting these pioneering initiatives Nesta aims to champion emerging innovations that are experimenting with ways to re-energise and reshape the future of civic participation and everyday democracy in the UK. Alongside the Democracy Pioneers, Nesta will also explore the conditions required to foster a climate of experimentation for the field, the systemic infrastructure and large scale shifts needed to grow this work, and the conditions for a wider movement that will help re-energise and reshape the everyday democracy and civic participation that we need for the coming decades in the UK.
Applications for the Democracy Pioneers Award have now closed.
Applications needed to satisfy our eligibility criteria:
- All entries had to be based in the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and have an impact in the United Kingdom.
- Entries had to be from constituted organisations. All sizes and sectors were considered, including; community groups, charities, start-ups, universities, SMEs, public, private and civil society organisations. Note private enterprises will need to demonstrate public benefit.
- Innovations must have been operating for at least six months and demonstrate evidence of ongoing work.
- Organisations and projects had to be politically non partisan and must not be affiliated with party political campaigns.
- All entries had a strong emphasis on the societal impact of their work and not be primarily motivated by profit.
- Organisations and projects must be able to commit a lead representative to work with Nesta in both a workshop and public facing capacity for a minimum of three days between March - October 2020.
We were looking for everyday civic participation and democracy innovations that demonstrate:
- An impactful approach, not yet adopted as mainstream but with an established track record
- A clear articulated vision for how our future civic participation and everyday democracy can be re-energised and reshaped to be:
- Better informed
- More inclusive and participatory
- More open, accessible and transparent
- Smarter and more creative or;
- More trusted and accountable
- High potential and clear aspirations to have a bigger impact in the coming years
- Clear commitment to be part of a wider community seeking to establish a movement for bigger civic participation and democratic shifts
Applications have now closed.
- Applications open: 16 December 2019
- Information webinar 1: 3pm, 21 January 2020
- Information webinar 2: 10am, 28 January 2020
- Submission deadline: 12 noon, 31 January 2020
- Pioneers announced: 12 March 2020
- Length of the award: expected contact with Nesta is for 2020, with primary contact between April - October 2020
Who do I contact if I have any questions?
Please read our FAQs if you have any questions relating to Democracy Pioneers. If your question has not been answered , please contact [email protected] and someone from the team will get back to you.
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