IGN research and guidance

Transitions to participatory democracy

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Transitions to participatory democracy

The RSA and IGN have produced a report exploring how participatory democracy can be developed and used in places.

Empowering residents to participate and engage in local decision-making can lead to new ideas, innovation, and better programme and project design, whilst building capacity in local communities.

This research has highlighted six broad transitions in local policy and practice that can help local authorities advance and embed local participatory democracy:

  1. Equalising participation opportunities for residents.
  2. Building sustained participation journeys for residents.
  3. Delegating decision-making authority to residents.
  4. Embedding participation as standard practice.
  5. Engaging residents in partnership with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.
  6. Securing broad support for participation, within and beyond public authorities.

Practical guidance and priority recommendations in the report include:

  • Conduct an audit of local engagement to understand who and who is not participating, how and which approaches have worked well in the past.
  • Develop a series of ‘participation personas’ that show how different residents engage.
  • Establish spaces where the power dynamic between residents and elected representatives is genuinely equal and shared.
  • Trial approaches that put final decision-making in the hands of the public.
  • Experiment with and institutionalise robust forms of public deliberation.
  • Discuss the roles of public and VCSE sector local institutions.
  • Work with partners to establish a Local Office for Public Engagement and Innovation.