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Politics in action

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  • Deliberative democracy
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I will admit to being one of those odd people who give compliments to strangers in the street. But giving good news makes everyone feel good (not just the recipient). So writing this blog where I get to showcase the finalists for the 2021 Innovation in Politics Awards is a real joy.

The RSA has been the UK partner to the Innovation in Politics Institute on the awards since 2020 – I know that’s timing for you right there. The Institute’s mission is simply to identify and apply innovations in politics to strengthen democracy in Europe and beyond. The awards support this mission; this year alone it identified 413 projects from 25 countries and came up with a list of 90 finalists who fall into nine categories (Community, Covid-19 Strategies, Democracy, Digitalisation, Ecology, Economy, Education, Human Rights and Quality of Life). The RSA supports this work by identifying potential projects in the UK and encouraging project leads to enter the awards.

This year we are delighted that five of the finalists are from the UK (a number of which are led by RSA Fellows or involve them), they’re diverse, inventive and collaborative projects that really bring politics and local impact together. I’m going to share a little about each one, but please do go and look in more detail for yourselves as I’m hardly doing them justice.

In the Community category:

Home-Made Bristol – a wonderful community-led project by Ecomotive; this timely project brings together ecological housing, training, employment, high-quality urban design with community-led housing support. The project supported by Bristol City Council looks at how engagement, collaboration and community-led development can build stronger communities in the 21st century.

In the Democracy category:

Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – an incredible piece of legislation that intertwines planetary and human wellbeing. The work began with conversations with 7000 people across Wales on what they wanted for their children and grandchildren in 2050. The act embeds wellbeing goals with 44 public bodies, this ambition to build wellbeing into a systemic approach has real ambition and one to watch.

Bristol’s First Citizen’s Assembly – another Bristol finalist! A worthy project that brought together residents to focus on the challenges writ large by Covid and ensure how they feel and what their priorities are shape the city for the future. This became a One City plan that will be reviewed in 2022. Participation of residents on this scale that is measured and reviewed sets an ambitious template for other cities and boroughs to match.

In the Ecology category:

Binit Better: Streamlining waste services in Exeter, Devon – anyone who has anything to do with local politics or community groups will have an involuntary shiver at the word litter it dominates so many conversations. But this innovative service in Exeter has combined technology with waste collection to address waste, boost recycling and generally streamline the services that many find impossible to fix. By surveying businesses and embedding need in the development of a responsive, user-friendly app. This collaborative model centres local need to deliver a service that solves businesses problems.

The CANN project: Collaborative Action for the Natura Network – The CANN Project is a unique cross-border collaboration working to improve conservation areas in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The project team works closely with local communities and leads educational and outreach schemes and their impact spans everything from cleaner water and reduced flood risk to increased biodiversity and carbon capture.

So, go check out these great projects and then peruse others from all over Europe. The Awards will take place between December and February across Europe. Let’s cross fingers I get to deliver some more wonderful news soon.

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