We know that most people in NI (almost 80% according to recent research) are dissatisfied with democracy. This is a sobering figure and something we should all be concerned about, because when people lose faith in democracy, they are more vulnerable to populism, extremist views and the kinds of reactionary, divisive messages that make politics less effective.
However, it’s hard to argue with the view that this version of democracy isn’t working – ordinary people have very little influence over the things that matter to their lives; important decisions are not being made, inequities are widening. People are suffering and we urgently need an alternative, more hopeful way of doing politics.
So how can we make it better? Could democracy be about more than elections? Can ordinary people have more say in decisions that affect their lives? Is our electoral system fit for purpose? How can we make governments more open? Should local governments have more power? Should citizens help decide how public money gets spent? How can we depolarise society and build more common ground? Can ideas like citizens’ assemblies help us to work together more effectively to solve tricky issues?
There are lots of ways that democracy can be improved, and we want to make space to talk about them all. Democracy Lounge is an ‘Open Space’ for your questions, a chance to pitch ideas and chat to other campaigners, activists, reformers, researchers, and dreamers about the changes we can make possible if we work together.
Open Space is a workshop style where participants decide on the day what they want to talk about. It’s guided by four rules and one law:
The Four Rules state: 1. Whoever comes are the right people 2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have 3. Whenever it starts is the right time 4. When it’s over, it’s over. The Law of Two Feet states that: “If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they can go to some more productive place”.
Anyone who comes to an Open Space workshop can offer their idea or question, or simply participate in topics suggested by others. Our facilitators will guide you through the process on the day. All you need to do is show up with a mindset of curiosity.
Democracy Lounge will kick off with the launch of the brand new Network for Better Democracy – an initiative to bring together people interested in ways to enable high quality, impactful participation and deliberative democracy on the island of Ireland. There’ll be opportunities for networking and informal connection with others interested in improving democracy, and the ideas generated through the Open Space will help inform what the Network focuses on during its first year.
The event is presented by Involve in collaboration with The Democracy Network UK, the All-Island Network for Better Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, Elections NI, and the NI Open Government Network.
About Involve: Involve is the UK’s leading public participation charity. We develop, support and campaign for new ways to involve people in decisions that affect their lives.
Since 2003, we have been working with governments, parliaments, civil society, academics and the public to create and deliver new forms of public participation that re-vitalise democracy and improve decision-making.
We are realistic about the challenges faced by democracy, but optimistic about how to overcome them. We are committed to ensuring our democracies are vibrant and fit for the future by putting people at the heart of decision-making. We work across the UK and internationally, with offices in Belfast, Edinburgh and London.
Sponsored by QUB Democracy Unit.