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Home Opinion Ideas & Debate Against elections? Democratic innovation and renewal

Democratic innovation and renewal

Has society turned into electoral fundamentalists? In this Policy Network ideas and debates series, a variety of pieces focus on exploring the ideas of 'renewing democracy', and innovations to democracy.


The populist signal: why politics and democracy need to change
This Policy Network publication focuses on why large swathes of voters feel that politics does not work, how this fuels support for insurgent parties and actors, and it investigates the power of democratic innovations. Drawing on new survey data in the UK, as well as interviews and case studies, the book shows that people are concerned with the process of politics, not merely its performance, and that they have a genuine desire for greater political participation in the decision-making process. These new forms of political engagement should not feel like a threat to formal systems of government, but as much-needed additions that enrich democracy.
By Claudia Chwalisz


Against Elections
How can we renew the centralised, hierarchical party system to reflect the horizontal power relationships of the hyper-connected, interactive society of the 21st century? A bi-representative system, combining elections with the democratic principle of sortition, or drawing of lots, could steer democracy into smoother waters
By David van Reybrouck


Labour's citizens' assemblies could be a great opportunity or a huge dissapointment
There is potential for Labour to devolve power away from the party machine, but new structures must not become a talking shop for a self-selected sample
By Claudia Chwalisz


Reshaping the politics of contemporary democracies: cosmopolitan v shrinking dynamics
Centralised, nationally oriented party structures on both the left and right must adapt in order to cope in an increasingly divergent world
By Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker


Building institutions for democratic renewal
The UK needs a Democracy Commission to tackle deepening political inequality
By Mathew Lawrence


Genk: the small city leading the way on participatory democracy
Innovative new practices have enabled widespread engagement in the setting of local authority budgets of a pioneering Belgian city
By Joke Quintens


A citizens' cabinet: experimenting with deliberative democracy
A new method of engaging people in the policymaking process has proved to be a success in Flanders
By Sven Gatz


The urgent work of our democracy
Involving more people in generating and debating ideas is not only right philosophically, it also helps government to make better decisions
By Jay Weatherill


'Let every sluice of knowledge be opened and set a-flowing'
Politicians who rely too heavily on cloistered experts to make policy ignore the inherent richness of a diverse society and blunt democracy’s comparative advantage
By Luca Belgiorno-Nettis


A bridge between government and citizens
Flanders’ new citizens’ cabinet aims to increase the legitimacy of policy-making, solicit new perspectives and enrich representative democracy
By Sven Gatz


Dialogue, not debate
The G1000 movement aims to discover common ground and provide all citizens with an equal chance to participate
By Jerphaas Donner and Harm van Dijk


The age of participatory democracy
Political disaffection is widespread in Britain. To regain the initiative, Labour will have to fashion a genuinely new politics
By Patrick Diamond


Why 'hashtag activism' is not the solution for democratic inequality
The internet offers of swathe of new opportunities for democratic interaction, but how does this affect engagement levels among different groups?
By Marc Hooghe, Jennifer Oser and Sofie Marien


An Athenian solution to democratic discontent
New forms of contact democracy and innovative forums that allow political and economic institutions to deliberate with citizens are important steps in the long-term battle to renew representative democracy for the 21st century.
By Claudia Chwalisz


Anti-politics: a supply problem, not an engagement problem
Only when politics changes and the behaviour of politicians becomes more focused on ‘doing the right thing’ will citizens be prepared to engage
By Gerry Stoker


Democratic decline or democratic evolution?
The way that people engage in politics is changing, but it is a mistake to necessarily equate this with democratic decline
By David Farrell


Westminster is broken: reconnecting with voters may require a step back
To tackle political disengagement and distrust we must radically reimagine democracy for modern times, rather than attempting to breathe life into political traditions that evolved from the 19th century
By Patrick Diamond, Dave Richards and Martin Smith


Anti-politics: it's not the economy, stupid; it's you
Populism in Britain is being fuelled by discontent with the political class. But even Nigel Farage’s supporters do not believe politics is a waste of time
By Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker


Why 'anti-politics' is not a myth
Progressives of both left and right have failed to grasp upon a mood of alienation amongst the public, seized upon by only the populists
By Matthew Wood


Why not try leaving things to chance?
The biggest threat to democracy is the belief that the system is broken. Introducing lotteries of randomly selected citizens to police the democratic system could prevent special interests from dominating the political process and enhance its democratic legitimacy
By Peter Stone


The myth of 'anti-politics'
Mainstream parties will continue to see their foundations crumble in future years as they enter existential territory. This is far from “anti-politics”. We are living in intensely political times, where a tech-enabled civic democracy is flourishing and new political forms are driven by the emergent individualism of Europe's people, particularly its young
By Anthony Painter


Is participatory democracy the solution to populism?
More participatory or deliberative local publics may not solve the problem of oversimplified and reactionary politics characteristic of the contemporary populist trend. However, new research shows that it can help strengthen the legitimacy of democratic institutions
By Carolina Johnson


Time for 21st century democracy
In a digital age, the closed world of institutions is no longer viable. To rebuild trust and re-engage citizens, technology can be used to change the way decisions are made, how citizens are involved and how institutions are held to account
By Matin J Smith and Dave Richards


Ukip if you want, but there's a price to pay
Ukip’s success highlights that the evasion, confrontation and accommodation strategies for taking them on are insufficient. A new strategy is badly needed to achieve a more healthy way of democratically engaging with disillusioned voters
By Anthony Painter


Responding to the populist signal
The growth of populist movements all over Western Europe can be understood as a political "signal" to mainstream politics, and not as a full-scale "shift to the right" in a more classical party-political understanding of politics and voter behaviour
By Ernst Hillebrand


Relieving democratic stress: devolution and strong cities
Although devolution is no panacea to the drivers of populism, it could bring decision-making closer to people’s lives and communities, and move towards a bottom-up rather than top-down centralised state management approach
By Alexandra Jones


Political parties in a flatter world
In a flatter world the state and the party still matter – but more as capacity builders and platform providers
By Neal Lawson


Accepting the collapse of the old order of party politics
The existing establishment still spends much more energy fighting for control of a sinking ship than imagining the design of new political vessels more sea worthy for the waters of the twenty-first century
By Matthew Taylor