Tim Hughes leads Involve’s work on open government and coordinates the UK Open Government Partnership civil society network.
He wrote the following blog report following the 2nd meeting of the PB network "Hearing the voices of the unheard" held on the 23rd January 2013 at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University.
"These are my notes from the opening panel session, titled “Hearing the voices of the unheard”. The issues of inclusivity and equality in democratic participation are something that, like many others, we at Involve are very concerned with. The following thoughts from the panel, which I’ve recorded as faithfully as possible, include a range of useful observations, arguments and reminders for anyone interested in democratic participation.
Here are five things that particularly hit home for me:
- Participatory processes can achieve as much, if not more, through their ability to bring people together to discuss, share and take action, as their impact on decision making (though the latter must not be forgotten). PB should be aboutbuilding a democratic movement – not the distribution of small grants.
- Process design is all-important for ensuring people are able to speak and be heard. Effort and resource is required to ensure that power imbalances are overcome.
- It’s important to be aware of who the unheard voices are in different contexts. There may be some surprises.
- We should be mindful of and challenge participatory processes that are being used to control and appease people, rather than hand over genuine power.
- If PB, or any other democratic innovation for that matter, is to make a real impact on power balances, they must be focused on core issues (and budgets) – not scraps on the edges."
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