Trust calls for Coalition to make Democracy more Deliberative

Trust calls for Coalition to make Democracy more Deliberative

26 June 2017

The Building Change Trust met with partners and organisations from across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector in Northern Ireland, and further afield, to discuss a possible collaboration to promote and nurture deliberative democracy in Northern Ireland.

Building on the Trust’s long established work in its theme of Creative Space for Civic Thinking, the trust hosted a workshop to gather ideas for actions and initiatives to help foster a deeper understanding of democracy in Northern Ireland.

Informing this work is the Trust’s recent research ‘’Beyond Voting’’, carried out by Dr Robin Wilson and Dr Paul Nolan, into the state of deliberative democracy in Northern Ireland.

As well as this, the Trust also commissioned Nick Garbutt to look at the VCSE Sector’s future role in reviving democracy and making sure citizens are involved in the decisions affecting their daily lives and those decisions are made in the best interests of communities.

The workshop aimed to find willing partners to collaborate with the Trust around a programme of work between now and the Trust’s closure in December 2018.

There were some great ideas in the room, including the need for a Citizen’s Assembly, participatory budgeting and the need for tools and methods for the VCSE Sector to use to help empower citizens.

All of these ideas will be worked on over the summer months with another meeting in September to further work on and develop them.

The Trust’s Paul Braithwaite, who heads up our work in this area, said: ‘’We hope that this initial work could result in a lasting coalition of organisations and individuals with a commitment to nurturing and protecting a more deliberative and participatory model of democracy in Northern Ireland.

‘’Over the past several years the Trust has been investing in civil society led initiatives to build a more deliberative democracy in Northern Ireland.

‘’For example we have established and resourced the Northern Ireland Open Government Network; we have resourced a series of Civic Activism Projects across Northern Ireland, each of which uses a different set of creative engagement methods; and we commissioned research into the independence of the VCSE sector.

‘’But we believe there is now both an opportunity and a need to engage in a broader dialogue across society about how we can deepen our democracy, with a fresh emphasis on the role of citizens.

‘’The ongoing crisis and impasse in our devolved government only serves to underline the point that our democracy is fragile and in desperate need of some fresh impetus and new ideas. The nurturing of our democracy is the responsibility of much more than politicians and government’’.

Watch this space, and follow the Trust on Twitter or check the website to keep up to date.