RSA Journal Issue 2 2023 - RSA

The RSA Journal: Issue 2 2023


“The increasing interest in democratic renewal presents an opportunity to reimagine and strengthen democracy”

Democracy is at a crossroads. Across the globe, democratic systems have been challenged, tested and, in some cases, weakened. The rise of authoritarianism and populism, erosion of civil liberties, decline of trust, and proliferation of misinformation threaten the very fabric of democratic governance. But hope is not lost.

The increasing interest in democratic renewal presents an opportunity to reimagine and strengthen democracy. This opportunity is critical, as we face polycrises that can only be solved through cross-societal cooperation and collective action.

This issue of RSA Journal, on the theme of democracy and citizenship, offers a range of perspectives that reflect the complexities facing fair, equitable and inclusive governance, while inspiring us with innovative examples of democratic renewal.

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Andy Haldane explores the implications of devolution for regional and local government in the UK, suggesting that devolution can lead to a seismic shift in governance. Andy’s interview with Tracy Brabin provides a personal account of the impact of devolution on the work of the mayor of West Yorkshire, discussing her goals, mayoral powers and the importance of the creative industries.

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As Newcastle University and the RSA become the new hosts for the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, Tom Kenyon argues that the value of the UK’s creative industries has been undersold and over-centralised. Peter Bazalgette advocated in his RSA President’s Lecture for creative industries as a critical catalyst for innovation and social and economic progress.

Innovation, however, doesn’t come without consequence. Nina Schick discusses how AI has threatened democratic processes by spreading misinformation and manipulating public opinion. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway’s article also examines the role of misinformation, arguing that dogma about the ‘magic’ of the marketplace has had disastrous consequences for trust in government systems.

From threat to hope. Singalilwe Chilemba’s article on democracy in Malawi provides a fascinating case study of how democratic systems can be strengthened despite the pandemic and authoritarian trends in other parts of Africa.

Similarly, Claudia Chwalisz presents a new democratic paradigm defined by citizenship participation, representation by lot, and deliberation. Young people are undeniably the future of such democratic communities, and Harriet Andrews details how The Politics Project’s approach of facilitating conversations between young people and politicians through its ‘Digital Surgeries’ equips the next generation with the tools to engage meaningfully in democratic processes.

So, where to next? Naomi Smith argues for radical electoral reform away from first past the post and Alexa Clay underlines a growing movement of ‘democracy entrepreneurs’. One example is how Mel Smith, FRSA, and her organisation, Grapevine, are empowering local communities via a host of relationship-centred initiatives.

Taken together, the articles in this issue of RSA Journal examine the challenges facing democracy and citizenship today, alongside an invitation to see them as living, breathing systems that require constant rejuvenation and innovation to contribute towards a resilient, rebalanced and regenerative world. I hope this will inspire you, as it has me, to consider what role you are playing in promoting democratic renewal.

Picture of Joanna Choukeir
Director of Design & Innovation

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