As part of the programme, the Democracy Pioneers were keen to collaborate with one another. Nesta worked to create ways to support specific and practical areas of collaboration.

Early on in the programme, Nesta ran an ‘open space’ workshop, to explore areas of collaboration. Pioneers joined forces to work on four areas where there was collaborative energy. Each area was shaped and led by the experiences of Democracy Pioneers and what they wanted to see happen.

“Organisations should admit we need one another, as more collaboration would help opening up more answers.”

Civil society interviewee

The four collaborative missions

Mission one: let’s talk about neighbourhood democracy

Mission one focused on democracy at a neighbourhood level.

The mission participants discussed how many of the informal ways that change happens at a neighbourhood level can be disconnected from formal democracy, but was key to change and how people support each other. The group also talked about how some of the most important leaders were doing this important work.

The result was a series of graphics which celebrated the energy and diverse leadership of people who have contributed to their communities and neighbourhoods throughout the COVID-19 crisis. An illustration was created as an aid to kick-start conversations with community leaders taking their next steps in democratic action; be it more informal support or more formal routes they may not have considered for furthering neighbourhood democracy post-pandemic.

Democracy Pioneers, such as People’s Powerhouse, used these to lead conversations in their local areas about what could be possible to build forward from the community leadership during COVID-19.

Feel free to use these illustrations in your discussions or work.

Democracy Pioneers leaflet

Mission two: using digital tools to engage people in democracy

Mission two focused on the array of digital tools that can support democracy, especially in light of COVID-19 challenging the ways that we have previously carried out much of our democractic work in the UK.

The Democracy Pioneers interviewed organisations who had used digital tools throughout the pandemic, with the goal of sharing learning about using digital platforms for democratic engagement. These interviews were collated into a series of seven case studies with accompanying illustrations to share the experience of using these new approaches.

The case studies range from Young Scot’s use of Zoom to replicate their one-to-one participatory initiatives with young people, to a teacher’s use of MentiMeter in a secondary school and were ranked for their effectiveness and ease of use. We’d love to hear of more examples, and the Democracy Pioneers are planning to share the insights both in the organisation but also build on this more broadly.

Please share in the comments or on #DemocracyPioneers other great examples you have seen.

Mission three: young people and local decision makers

As part of mission three the Democracy Pioneers explored ways for young people to reflect on their experiences of COVID-19, their experiences of their local area, and how this may influence decision making.

The Democracy Pioneers involved wanted to find ways to support young people to inform discussions going on in many parts of the country about the response and recovery from COVID-19 and the future of local democracy. Rather than create an extractive process whereby local councils gained insights from young people that may or may not be used in council plans or policy, the Democracy Pioneers wanted to create an approach which allowed students to meet and share with their local councillors in a way which built the foundations for an ongoing relationship. Kirklees Council organised a pilot of the mission three session at Hillside Primary School with three ward councillors in October 2020.

“It is good for councillors to hear the views, concerns and sometimes fears of young people. It’s a real opportunity for us to learn from them about how they see the world unfolding around them and the challenges they face.”

“Meeting young people in this way helps break down barriers and shows them that councillors aren’t just people who talk a lot in meetings but can help make their everyday lives better with practical action.”

- Feedback from councillor Andrew Cooper, Newsome ward, Kirklees

Pioneers are continuing to explore how they can build on these ideas. Share the best examples you have seen of young people shaping the response and recovery from the pandemic in the comments below or using #democracypioneers.

Mission four: reimagining town and parish councils

Mission four brought together a network of local leaders, national organisations in the field, academics and democracy innovators who are interested in reimagining the possibilities for town and parish councils in local democracy.

In September 2020, the mission team worked with digital and strategic designer Eva Oosterlaken, to design and host a workshop bringing together a group of local leaders, national organisations, academics and democracy innovators to imagine the future of parish and town councils in 7-10 years. A number of the Democracy Pioneers are now working together with others to connect and keep exploring how town and parish councils could operate in new ways.

Authors

Carrie Deacon

Carrie Deacon

Carrie Deacon

Head of Social Action Innovation

Carrie was Head of Social Action Innovation at Nesta, leading our work on social action and people-powered public services.

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Khyati Modgil

Khyati Modgil

Khyati Modgil

Programme Manager, Government Innovation

Khyati was a Programme Manager in Nesta's Government and Community Innovation team. She is interested in democracy. civic participation and nurturing inclusive organisational cultures.

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Katherine Zscharnagk

Katherine Zscharnagk

Katherine Zscharnagk

Programme Coordinator, A Fairer Start mission

Kat was the Programme Coordinator for the new A Fairer Start mission launched in February 2021.

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Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Project Manager and Researcher

Camilla is a Project Manager and Researcher working in the Explorations team on the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

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Rosalyn Old

Rosalyn Old

Rosalyn Old

Researcher, Government Innovation

Rosalyn was a researcher in Nesta's Government Innovation team.

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Kyle Usher

Kyle Usher

Kyle Usher

Mission Manager (Scotland), Innovation Programmes

Kyle is Nesta’s Mission Manager for Scotland working on the A Sustainable Future mission and based with the Scotland team in Edinburgh.

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