UK Democracy Bulletin, 2nd December

Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding and Molly Hudson of The Centre for Democracy. Read by 280+ democracy organisations. We read everyone’s newsletters & research so you don’t have to. If you want us to cover yours, let us know: hello@centrefordemocracy.org.uk

This UK Democracy Bulletin will be the last before the Christmas break, with our next meetup on January 10th in the new year.
Over the next few weeks, the Centre for Democracy team will be reflecting on our first year and planning for the future. If you’d like to help feedback on our work via this quick survey, we’d really appreciate your perspective.

Highlights

  • London Democracy Drinks tonight’s cancelled, Saturday’s still on!
  • Democracy Network Jessie Joe-Jacobs reports back on their first few months in the role
  • Reflecting on 2021 we take a brief look back on the achievements of the sector over the past year
  • Notwestminster is coming February 26th in Huddersfield
  • Democracy Awards Civility in Politics Awards, Make Votes Matters’ Democracy Awards — nominations still open!
  • Police Bill New last minute amendments published during late stages of the passage of the bill

Celebrating & reflecting on 2021

2021 has been another incredibly difficult year for many of us, but despite everything, we’ve managed to achieve a huge amount as a sector.

Involve’s Democracy Network

With the conclusion of Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s significant £300,000 funding round earlier this year, we saw Involve take the reins of a new democracy network project, with Jessie Joe Jacob’s the new network’s coordinator holding their first steering group of key stakeholders this Tuesday. With this major injection of funds into the sector, we can expect great things over the next year as the Democracy Network builds upon the foundations of this meetup and the work of the Centre for Democracy and other groups.

Democracy Defence Coalition

We’ve seen a strong response from the sector to the Conservative Government’s plans this year, with collaboration between a wide range of organisations, including a Slack group, a weekly Zoom and weekly updates digest — and now a new website. Election Bill aside, this is great news for the health of the sector and our capacity to unite around key issues.

Proportional Representation shot to the top of the agenda this year

With 80% of Labour CLPs backing the vote at Labour Party Conference, with only unions holding out — and even then, mostly because they hadn’t held their own policy conferences due to COVID-19 — conference very nearly backed PR, thanks to Labour for a New Democracy’s tireless campaigning on the issue this year. This is a major step forward for proponents of fair votes and hopefully we’ll get a win in 2022.

Kirklees Council create new shared strategic outcome for active citizenship

Working with over 100 organisations and local citizen groups, Kirklees Council has developed Shaped By People, a new foundational outcome, written by the citizens of Kirklees describing what local people want for the future. It’s part of keeping the promise made by the Kirklees Democracy Commission to make active citizenship a shared strategic priority for the region.

Citizens Juries and Assemblies continue in 2021 despite the plague

Shared Future CIC, Involve, Democratic Society and others saw the citizens assemblies and juries running in Newham, Southwark, Furness, Jersey States’ and more, including the publication of the report of last year’s Scottish Citizens’ Assembly. The People Vs Climate Change marked a powerful moment for the UK democracy movement.

We also saw the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Political Literacy

Launched in January the APPG is an all-party forum to discuss the provision of citizenship and political education in schools. The APPG published their latest report last month The Missing Link: An Updated Evaluation of the Provision, Practice and Politics of Democratic Education in English Secondary Schools. Covered in our November 18th bulletin, the report found that the vast majority of teachers feel responsible for developing young people’s political literacy, but completely lack the resources to do so and feel wholly unprepared, with just 1% feeling in a position to confidently do so.

Not one, but two democracy newsletters!

This year also marked the launch of two UK democracy newsletters, this very UK Democracy Bulletin, and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s Democracy Action.

Democracy Sector

London Democracy Drinks cancelled for tonight in light of changing COVID-19 situation

Democracy Network Drinks at Demos in London are still on for Saturday 4th December 4pm
Email jessie.jacobs@involve.org.uk for details.

A message from Jessie Joe Jacobs, Democracy Network Coordinator:

What a few months — It has been an exciting first two months as I began my role as Coordinator for a new Democracy Network. The Democracy Network is a new initiative funded by Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to bring together people and projects from across the UK who are passionate about democracy.

Our first past the post representative political system is out of date and hasn’t really changed since it’s inception. It is not geared up to govern the modern world. We need new ideas to rebuild democracy with all of us working together from all walks of life to shape what happens to us and around us, the Democracy Network aims to encourage collaboration, improve capacity, connectedness and effectiveness of people and projects within our sector, and ultimately work towards a better democracy and society where power is more equally shared.

I have tried to hit the ground running and have been very busy over these first two months. My biggest thought at this stage is what can the Network can do to add real value to the people and projects within the Democracy Sector and how can the sector and organisations within it, begin to see the Network as a source of support, coordination and resource. This week we will have our first steering group meeting and we will also begin to develop plans for a Council of Reference, inviting organsiations to this who will be able to help shape the work fo the Network and help us answer the question about being a needed and valued resource. I also thought it might be helpful to share a few key graphics, displaying the learning and activity so far.

Civility in Politics Awards reminder — deadline 8 December 2021

Kicked off in the thick of the pandemic in 2020, the Civility in Politics Awards are back for 2022. The Awards focus on highlighting people in politics act with courtesy and decency to one another. There are four categories — Politician of the Year, Co-operation of the Year, Campaigner of the Year and the Daniel Stevenson Award. The deadline for submissions is 8th December 2021, so if you think there’s someone out there that deserves some praise, nominate them for an award.

Make Votes Matter crowdfunding, planning Election Bill protests, action days and preparing for the annual Democracy Awards

Holly Morgan-Davies and the team at MVM are currently preparing a cross-party demonstration in Parliament Square, as well as further protests around the country, likely early February — in addition to this, they’re planning their next Action Day on the 11th December, themed “Shine a Light on PR”. The day will be focused on promoting local actions, street stalls and online activity, for anyone interested in getting involved email the team at team@makevotesmatter.org.uk. MVM have also launched their new funding drive and are crowdfunding here, check it out and donate here. Lastly, MVM are planning their annual Democracy Awards, which is taking place in Portcullis House in London on the 14th December — the event will be centred around celebrating key campaigners, grassroots activists and allies of PR in the UK.

mySociety charting a “new, slightly altered course”

Though still with a firm focus on democracy, Chief Executive Mark Cridge has set forward the new direction across three new blog posts. The blog posts serve as a thoughtful and careful examination of mySociety’s place within the democracy sector, what the climate crisis means for their work, and how they can use their strengths and skills to best impact society as a whole.

Liberty publish briefing on Police Bill last minute amendments

The draconian bill just got even more pointed, with last minute amendments brought in at a very late stage of the Bill’s passage. According to Kathleen Christie, Convenor of the Police Bill Coalition, there is considerable concern that last week’s Lords Committee stage had little opportunity for substantive review of these new additions to the Bill. The amendments include 51 week max prison sentences for a range of conventional direct action tactics, even for legal observers. The Bill now includes a new legal device, Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, effectively protest bans — for those involved in direct action tactics. Get in touch with Kathleen Christie to add your organisation’s name to the petition opposing the Bill or join the coalition of orgs working against the Bill in Parliament.

Bad news gossip on Police Bill

Ask any Westminster contacts how much pressure they are getting about the Police Bill and they’ll say next to none, says senior climate lobbyist. We’ve asked several of our contacts to confirm this news and it seems to hold up.

Peers call for rebalance of powers

Two little known committees in the House of Lords, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Secondary Legislation Committee, joined forces last week to publish reports of critical constitutional importance. The reports Government by Diktat and Democracy Denied? examine the role of statutory instruments made by ministers under delegated powers, and whether bills give ministers inappropriate powers. The two committees are chaired by Conservative peers of long tenure, with the reports themselves being uncharacteristically blunt.

Alliance of Democracies offering Democracy Tech Entrepreneur Fellowship

Applications are open until December 15th, so act fast! The fellowship programme offers a six month programme that seeks to equip people from emerging democracies with the tools they need to start and scale successful democratic ventures. Applicants should come from one of the target countries: Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, and Venezuela.

Notwestminster 2022 is coming, 26th February

Next year’s participant-led event titled The Future is Unwritten will be held on the 26th February with a range of democracy workshops. If you’re interested in pitching an idea, pitches are open until 6th December, or until their programme is full. Get in touch with Diane and the team via their website or directly at Notwestminster@gmail.com.

Launch of new Local Climate Engagement programme
Today applications opened for local authorities and partnerships in England to join the new Local Climate Engagement programme. LCE will enable local authorities and partnerships to plan, commission and deliver high quality public engagement in their climate decision-making. The programme is an exciting new opportunity for local authorities to work with Involve, UK100, Democratic Society, Shared Future and Climate Outreach. All are amongst the UK’s leading organisations in the fields of local government, public participation in climate decision-making, and climate communications and advocacy. More info here: Prospectus.pdf (involve.org.uk) Deadline for expressions of interest is 24th January 2022.

UK Democracy Fund launch three new reports

The reports include, Making Votes at 16 Work in Wales, The democratic participation of ethnic minority and immigrant voters in the UK, and Closing the Gap: Engaging the missing millions in electoral participation.

New Electoral Commission chair joins Institute for Government for discussion, 6th December

Discussing the challenges to UK democracy, former statistician John Pullinger, the new EC chair since May this year, will share his reflections on voters, parties, the UK democratic system and his ideas for a way forward. Register for the session.

Shared Future CIC kicking off two new citizens juries on climate change

Alex King, Comms & Marketing Associate at Shared Future CIC, reports on Shared Future’s latest efforts, including two new citizens juries starting in the London Borough of Southwark and Furness in Cumbria. Their highlight of the past year has been hosting the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury, commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium. The jury saw 30 social tenants from across the North of England come together over 10 weeks until September 2021. The report on the process was published last month, but there’s also this brilliant video talking with participants about the jury, if you’d like to know more.

Lead Fellow of the Citizen Network, Gavin Barker, is developing a citizen charter

Modelled on the original Chartist document, the citizen charter will call for a permanent transfer of power from Westminster to the regions. The charter is aiming for a spring 2022 launch. You can find out more about this initiative via the Citizen Reform Twitter, or emailing Gavin directly.

Titus Alexander engaging with Biden’s Summit for Democracy

US President Biden’s Summit for Democracy is being held on 9/10 December this year. Titus is calling for a petition campaign to Parliament on the erosion of democratic norms in the UK, calling on Parliament to actively engage with the conference and use the year of action to create a new All Party Joint Committee on Strengthening Democracy. You can find Titus’ draft petition proposal here.

Talk Shop running workshop on digital democracy tool Pol.is, 6th December

Pol.is is used by groups around the world to identify common ground among large numbers of people. In Taiwan, Pol.is has been used extensively by the government there to crowdsource legislation. Perry Walker at Talk Shop has organised a seminar session with Andy Paice, which you can RSVP to join by email.

Democracy & Media

Public Interest News Foundation focusing on fundraising

Whilst it’s small scale to begin with, PINF hopes that their Impact Fund shows what’s possible with funding local journalism. Public Interest News are now focusing on fundraising and finalising their survey of indie news publishers that’ll go out early next year.

Manifesto for a People’s Media

Eliz Mizon and the team at the Media Reform Coalition have been busy the last few months coalescing and finalising their new Manifesto for a People’s Media. The manifesto draws on conversations with dozens of organisations and individuals, and 9 Town Hall events attended by nearly 30,000 people. It includes proposals for a People’s BBC and Channel 4, which would be radically transformed to become devolved and participatory. It also includes proposals for an Independent Media Commons — an ecology of participatory newsrooms, community radio stations, digital innovators and cultural producers, supported by democratically-controlled public resources to tell the stories of all the UK’s communities. Read the manifesto.

And Finally…

Global State of Democracy report published

Published last week by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, the Global State of Democracy Report 2021 reports of a number of democracies continuing the trend of democratic backsliding. Brazil, India, the US, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia have all seen these declines, with the pandemic prolonging, and likely exacerbating an existing trend, the report argues.

Featured Upcoming Events

The Centre for Democracy maintains a full database of events from across the democracy sector.

View the database here — Have we missed something? Add it here!

Active Job Listings across the Democracy Sector

View the full database of upcoming job listings here — have we missed any? Add them via this form.

Apply ASAP

Jobs with upcoming deadlines

We’ve been experimenting with the format of this email and the accompanying meetup, if you have any feedback we’d be glad to hear it.

If you can’t make our weekly meetup, you can always drop in to the meetup document of the current fortnight and add to it by going to democracymeetup.org.uk.

Thanks to everyone who joined us this week for Democracy Check-Ins. This week we were joined by Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters, Joe Mitchell at Public Interest News Foundation & The Centre for Democracy, Jon Morter of The Progressive Alliance, Perry Walker of Talk Shop, Holly Morgan-Davies at Make Votes Matter, Jessie Joe-Jacobs of Involve, Alex King of Shared Future CIC, Diane Sims of Notwestminster, Gavin Barker at Citizen Network and Kathleen Christie of the Police Bill Coalition.

See you in the new year, add to your calendar

James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team

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