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A chance to be heard

Blog 6 Comments

  • Picture of Clare Gage
    Clare Gage
    Designer Maker working in ceramics, jewellery and creative education
  • Fellowship

Last night I attended Matthew Taylor’s annual lecture about deliberative democracy. I’m becoming a passionate advocate of this idea and how important it is for our future.

Matthew talked about why our democracy and the people in political power need this change. I’d like to highlight another place where our society needs this change.

Much has been discussed about people feeling disengaged, disenchanted and disenfranchised in recent years. Is deliberative democracy a way to give people back their voice, in a positive way? As Mathew Taylor has said, during citizens’ juries ‘ordinary people from all walks of life can be thoughtful, constructive and opened-minded.’ These opportunities must be positive for the participants involved.

I’d like to tell you my story. I’ve been a Fellow of the RSA since I was 21 after winning a Student Design Award. Over the last 12 years I’ve watched from the sidelines, not sure where I fitted in, but keen to support the RSA’s work on creating a better society. Earlier this year I was invited to an event for International Women’s Day. The Labour party had invited a selection of Derbyshire business women to celebrate our successes and discuss the challenges we face. Jeremy Corbyn attended. For me it was like a switch turned on. Someone was going to listen to me. My comments could be taken back to the places of power. Previously I’d had thought they would hear nothing more from me than my one vote on the infrequent opportunities I was asked for it.

I became informed. I went straight to the RSA, to delve deeper into the research. I went to my local RSA meetup knowing what I wanted to say (and I said it!)

This is what deliberative democracy can do. Give people a voice. It gives motivation to engage in our society.

I followed this first step with another, and another and now I am involved in organising an RSA event in Nottingham in October where we intend to spread this feeling of giving people a voice.

Step by step I have moved forward and each time I’ve been able to speak up, each time I’ve been listened to and each time I’ve become more informed. This is the opportunity that we should offer to everyone. Citizens’ Juries as part of deliberative democracy can do this.

We’d like to hear from any RSA Fellows interested in assisting with our Nottingham event. It will be an inclusive, family-friendly afternoon of participatory activities to fuel our desire to bring about change. Do get in touch with me at if you’re willing to help.

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  • I love the vision of citizen juries/assemblies operating at the national level; however, I feel that we, as the RSA, could consider supporting some interesting stepping stones on the way to such a future.

    Possible stepping stones could include visible support for democratic deliberation being used for particular institutions, such as particular hospitals, prisons or schools, where the pool of potential stakeholders could be well defined. Clear success and results would then, in turn, support activities at the national level.

    I would add one reminder and one thought ....

    The audience for a deliberative approach is the same pool of people from which the original "jury" is drawn. The results/findings need to be presented back to everyone in the whole system, not just decision makers. Only then can the approach be seen to be a voice of the people.

    Finally, the RSA has a great opportunity to demonstrate the potential for such an approach by applying it to and through their own pool of fellows, trustees, council members, staff and managers. A randomly-selected group could spend two days or more addressing a simple question, such as "How could the RSA be even more enlightened and even more influential?" and the results presented to the whole RSA community. The results would have no official weight or influence on decisions, but, naturally, they would influence the ongoing conversations within the RSA.

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