Rethinking Public Dialogue - The RSA - RSA

Rethinking Public Dialogue

Rethinking Public Dialogue

Support for public dialogue innovations

The RSA and UKRI are supporting projects that test novel approaches and new possibilities for public dialogue.

In an exciting collaboration with UKRI and their team working to promote greater public engagement in research, the RSA is championing pilot projects that challenge the boundaries of conversations between the public, researchers, and policymakers.

Closed in July 2022, Rethinking Public Dialogue was a UKRI fund, delivered by the RSA, that is now supporting nine projects that test new approaches to public dialogue. These projects cover a wide range of topics:

  • Building a green future
  • Securing better health, ageing and wellbeing
  • Tackling infection
  • Building a secure and resilient world
  • Creating opportunities and improving outcomes.

The innovators behind the projects have been tackling these issues with cutting-edge digital tools, implementing creative techniques that unite social needs and innovative thinking, trialling ways to break down barriers, and scalling-up engagement to broader perspectives.

The total value for this fund is £540,000 across all pilots, which are anticipated to last up to nine months in their delivery and should be concluded by summer 2023.

Find out about the nine successful projects that secured UKRI Rethinking Public Dialogue funding below.


The Rethinking Public Dialogue funded projects

Climate Friendly Popup

Organisations and partners:

  • Imperial College London
  • The Liminal Space Nourish Hub
  • Transition to Zero Pollution advisory group

The project:

The team will test a multi-stakeholder dialogue approach to develop an effective public engagement ‘vehicle’ - a pop-up supermarket and kitchen experience - to enable ‘whole systems thinking’ through creative deliberative dialogue activities that empower people rather than overwhelm them, in the context of making more environmentally friendly food choices. They will pilot prototype pop-up supermarket experiences with community audiences via the community dialogue stakeholders Nourish Hub, and in Westfield shopping centre, White City. Evaluation will inform the scaling up of further dialogue experiences, which could be situated in multiple ‘retail’ contexts such as shopping centres or supermarkets.



Organisations and partners:

  • University of York
  • UCL

The project:

DICEY (Dialogue in Climate Engineering with Youth) is an innovative approach to public dialogue on emergent science and policy on climate interventions, focusing on question creation. It involves online workshops with under-represented publics (youth, aged 16-24), scientists, funders and policymakers. Workshops will focus on building a green future and a secure and resilient world through dialogue about different responses to climate change. Dialogue will result in the production of artist-illustrated ‘climate questions’ cards, to stimulate further online public dialogue. DICEY aims to be inclusive and intergenerational, involving reciprocal relationships with participants, and inverting norms to make scientists and policymakers the ‘public’ for youth questions.


Enhancing Public Dialogue About Inclusion in School Education

Organisations and partners:

  • School of Education
  • University of Exeter
  • School of Education and Sociology
  • University of Portsmouth
  • SEN Policy Research Forum
  • Sortition Foundation

The project:

This project will carry out what is believed to be the first citizen panel about improving the English school system. It will address how English schools could be designed to be more inclusive for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

This two-phase project will enable the piloting of innovative methods that better enable young people with SEN/disabilities to participate effectively in public dialogue events alongside adults and young people without SEN/disabilities. Phase one is for young people with SEN/disabilities; phase two is for young people with SEN/disabilities and without, parents/carers and teachers.


Leveraging the Neurodiversity Paradigm

Organisations and partners:

  • University of Bath
  • CitizenMe
  • National Autistic Society
  • Kings College London

The project:

Leveraging the concept of ‘neurodiversity’, this project experiments with online approaches and artificial intelligence (AI) methods to understand and improve public dialogue. Our team of experts will use two online platforms to explore public dialogues on neurodiversity. Dialogic data will be examined using innovative AI-driven machine learning algorithms, including a statistical evaluation against our previous face-to-face events. The project will conclude with an online dissemination and deliberation event, which will engage an international range of participants interested in public dialogue and/or neurodiversity. Overall, the project will deliver ground-breaking advances in dialogic methods and improve understanding of neurodiversity.


Mek Wi Talk

Organisations and partners:

  • The Ubele Initiative
  • Reos Partnership.

The project: 

Mek Wi Talk proposes to utilise art and storytelling to stimulate visions in the public imagination about the future of black leadership in Britain and to create new narratives about the future of Black Leadership. The team behind it also wants to take a multistakeholder approach to enable the community at many levels to engage in the process.

Mindset Revolution

Organisations and partners:

  • University of Birmingham
  • Platoniq
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Youth Focus North West
  • 42nd Street
  • Katy Rubin
  • Reform Radio
  • GM I-Thrive Programme.

The project:

Public dialogue is often a top-down, one-off affair, where the commissioner sets the agenda, plans the process, and decides who is invited. There is limited follow-up, and it is hard to assess the impact of isolated initiatives. Mindset Revolution flips this and reinvents public dialogue as a bottom-up process embedded in the community, exploring how a youth-led participatory process can become sustainable and adaptable across mental health service design and implementation.

It builds on the work of the Optimistic Minds project, which used Legislative Theatre and a youth-led dialogue with policymakers to co-develop strategies that strengthen the responsiveness of mental health services to young people’s needs. Mindset Revolution brings together the same team and the young participants from Optimistic Minds. The aim is to create an embedded, inclusive and empowering process that moves beyond just articulating recommendations. The project will experiment with flexible spaces of participation that foster ongoing dialogue between young people, their community, and institutions, putting young people’s voice front and centre of mental health policymaking.


Rebooting Online Public Dialogue

Organisations and partners:

  • Involve
  • University of Southhampton
  • NetHood

The project:

Rebooting Online Public Dialogue compares the performance of current best practice online dialogue design, against an augmented design including gamification, argument mapping, argument mining and topic modelling. These specifically designed mechanisms promote inclusion, scale high-quality deliberation, overcome security risks and create better ways to harvest volumes of data.

This project runs two concurrent dialogues on live issues of R&I. It will evaluate how each tool helps solve known problems of dialogue, the impact of each tool within a dialogue, and how far they make a difference to the credibility and usability of results overall for decisionmakers.


Talking Trials

Organisations and partners:

  • Cardiff University
  • South Riverside Community Development Centre
  • Women Connect First

The project:

People from minority ethnic backgrounds face health inequalities but are under-represented in research designed to address these inequalities. Talking Trials will adopt a deliberative democracy approach and combine it with less verbocentric participatory art approaches.

The project will bring together a group of co-researchers from diverse ethnic backgrounds to discuss health research and provide well-considered recommendations to clinical trial stakeholders to facilitate inclusive engagement and involvement in research. It will explore how people from diverse ethnic communities can influence health research including both what research is done and how, and seek to shift from co-researchers communicating barriers towards actively identifying solutions.


Time is on My Side?

Organisations and partners:

  • National Centre of Social Research
  • Policy Institute (KCL)
  • Deliberative Democracy Lab (Stanford)

The project:

Time is on My Side? proposes the creation of evidence-based pathways to widen the societal benefits of deliberation by testing whether ‘compact dialogue’ produces quality deliberation. The project's innovators know deliberation helps tackle complex issues, engaging citizens in dialogue and collectively building a picture of informed views and will. Both theory and practice assume that deliberation takes time, but how much is unknown and untested. They will investigate the effects of shortened timescales on opinion change in deliberative practice for the first time, using AI technology. The learning generated may support the scaling up of deliberation through creating rapid and accessible formats.


Apply for other funding opportunities through our Catalyst Awards

Catalyst Awards

Catalyst Awards offer social innovation grants and support to our Fellows

Related content

  • ‘One Creative North’ plans finalised at summit ahead of Convention of the North

    Press release

    The RSA, together with leaders from across government, civil society and the creative industries, finalise bold new ideas for the North of England’s creative industries, to be revealed in full at the Convention of the North on 29 February.

  • Inspired by nature


    Rebecca Ford Alessandra Tombazzi Penny Hay

    Our Playful green planet team summarises a ‘lunch and learn’ at RSA House that focused on how the influence of nature can benefit a child’s development.

  • Join the Fellowship Council: apply by 18 March

    Fellowship news

    Fellowship Councillors are at the heart of the RSA and play a key role in ensuring the Fellowship’s voice is heard, by providing a vital link between staff and our unique global network of changemakers. Could you be the next Fellowship Councillor for Ireland or the South East?