DOING DEMOCRACY DIFFERENTLY

Dissatisfaction with democVivek
                      Nandaracy — or the way it is implemented — appears to be growing. This Bite Sized Group of eight sessions will start by looking at whether we feel democracy is failing, and if so, where and how, identifying the causes of the present malaise. It will go on to explore and assess different approaches to improving the way citizens interact with the democratic process; and finish by asking whether we can do anything to change the present system, if we don’t like what we’ve got now.

The initial programme has now ended but there will be a special session (zoom only) to discuss the future of this Group on 7 April at 4.00pm. The session will be open to all iU3A members to alert like-minded members to join the discussion and engage with local partners.

Group Coordinator: Please let Vivek know at: bitesize.iu3a@gmail.com if you are interested in taking part, so that the details of the hybrid meeting can be sent to you.
When
Below is the schedule followed by the Group previously.
Where
As above.

Introduction
Why individual members have chosen to join the group: Agreeing the group’s agenda and process, which is to come to the meeting with a question or specific point that you would like to discuss, particularly as a result of the preparatory material signposted to help inform the discussion between Members of the Group.

Not compulsory, but members were signposted to the Open Britain Democracy Day Live panel discussion, hosted by Gavin Esler in September 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ldBikIfrzc
 
Previous Meetings
P&P4-1Zoom on 11 Nov 2021: Democracy – where are we now and where are we heading?
Members were signposted to a thought-provoking podcast from the RSA, in which Matthew Taylor, former head of the RSA, talks to Graham Smith, professor of politics at the University of Westminster, and Claudia Chwalisz who leads the OECD’s work on innovative citizen participation. The question they are discussing is whether the short-termism and limitations of our present system of representative democracy is fit for purpose in a world facing complex long-term challenges, such as climate change, pandemics and so on:
 Is democracy doomed to fail us in the long term? If the above link does not work, then please find the episode from 4 May 2021 at https://www.thersa.org/podcasts


P&P4-2Zoom on 25 Nov 2021: Electoral Reform: how do we fix British Democracy?
Members were signposted to a (perhaps provocative?) lecture by David Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge at the Electoral Reform Society AGM from January 2021.
 




P&P4-3Zoom on 9 Dec 2021: Cleaning up Politics
Members were signposted to Peter Geoghegan’s interview about his book “Democracy for Sale – Dark Money and Dirty Politics”.  Peter Geoghegan and Fintan O'Toole on Democracy for Sale | 5x15 - YouTube


Break for Christmas and New Year
 



P&P4-4Zoom on 20 Jan 2022: Wellbeing as a new focus for Democracy
Members were signposted to a “Reasons to be Cheerful” podcast with Dr Katherine Trebeck and Kate Raworth, which can be found at
 
GO BIG #2: A Big Idea to Rethink the Economy | Reasons to be Cheerful  [Suggestion – skip the first 15 minutes].
 



P&P4-5Zoom on 3 Feb 2022: Deliberative Democracy: Citizens’ Assemblies & Climate Change
Members were signposted to another “Reasons to be Cheerful” podcast with Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd and three experts: Graham Smith, professor of politics, University of Westminster; Archon Fung, professor of citizenship and self-government, Harvard Kennedy School; and professor Becky Willis, expert lead on Climate Assembly UK and professor in practice at Lancaster University
A Big Idea to Repair Our Democracy [Suggestion – skip the first 7 minutes]

P&P4-6Zoom on 17 Feb 2022: Community Wealth Building
As the Group Leader Pauline took an unexpected break with grandchildren during half term, another Member of the Group stepped in to provide cover. Barry led the discussion using the following preparatory material:
towards-a-better-newham-strategy
Newham Council to be first in London to use health, wellbeing and happiness to measure progress in Covid-19 recovery strategy: here.
weekend 3 - sustainability - position paper (citizensassembly.scot)

P&P4-7Zoom on 3 March 2022 on Zoom: Who is Doing Democracy Differently?
Members were signposted to a Helen Lewis interview with Peter Macfadyen, founder of Flatpack Democracy from May 2020 on BBC Radio 4 - The Spark, Peter Macfadyen and rebuilding democracy


Zoom on 17 March 2022 on Zoom: Reviewing the Journey of Doing Democracy Differently Group?
At this meeting, Members of the Group agreed to adopt a more collaborative structure, with active Members of the current Group leading on different aspects, as well as a different objective going forward. Previously, the Group has been focussed on learning about different aspects of modern-day democracy in practice in the UK and other countries. Our learning and discussions have led to a set of conclusions about what we find lacking in our present democratic system. Chief among these are:

a) The failure of democracy to “represent” people’s views and wishes, both nationally and locally. The First Past the Post `(FPTP) electoral system fails to offer a nuanced choice to the electorate and favours the dominance of big political parties and their policies. It does not allow for a range of views to be represented and it is too rigid and permanent a system. Once elected, a government with a big enough majority holds almost total power with little challenge, for periods of around five years.
b) The failure of local authorities to engage in any meaningful sense with its electorate. On the whole, local councillors are shackled to their national political party and too remote from local people. Other than local elections and one-off exercises, there is too little consultation or engagement with local citizens and where it exists, it is often too complex, too bureaucratic, too inaccessible and too ad hoc. The number of occasions on which local people have been able to bring about a significant change of direction on the part of a local council are few and far between.

Members of the D3 group want to start challenging the present structure and processes as a means of improving democracy, both nationally and locally. There are various ways in which we hope to do this, viz.

1) Arranging a series of meetings, probably once a month, with a range of players to explore what steps they are taking to broaden participation and what initiatives they might consider to find out what local people want and how they might go about meeting local wishes. We want the u3a movement to feed into this. These meetings would take the form of a short presentation by one or more invited guests with input from iU3A members as well as Members of other u3as. Speakers might be drawn from local authorities or from relevant national bodies such as the Electoral Reform Society, the New Economics Foundation, the Institute for Government, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and other think tanks and universities active in the field.
2) Joining with other iU3A Groups, specifically the Economics for People and Ageing in the 21st Century Groups, so as to move forward on a holistic agenda, taking account of issues such as economic wellbeing, health and social care for older people, climate change interests etc.
3) Liaising with potential partners, such as AgeUK and others, to strengthen the voice of older people.


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