How to embed innovation within your organisation
From democratic institutions finding ways to keep going online during lockdown to teams of fact checkers verifying the legitimacy of health claims made by governments and the media, COVID-19 has strengthened calls for democratic innovation globally. In the space of weeks, communities, businesses and authorities have expedited solutions that were previously resisted, highlighting their potential in helping citizens and authorities to navigate a changing world together.
Back in March, we announced the winners of the Democracy Pioneers Award, recognising 19 projects working in creative ways to shake up democracy and civic participation in the UK. From Community Integrated Care’s campaign to bridge the ‘democracy gap’ for people who access the care sector, to Buckfastleigh’s approach to reclaiming power through local collaboration in rural towns, the potential for these innovations was evident long before the world went into lockdown. Just how needed these innovations are is coming into greater focus as we begin to see the impact of COVID-19.
As evidenced we know that those furthest from power will be disproportionately impacted and least able to influence and participate in key decisions for recovery. We need to harness collective power and collaboration between authorities and citizens to tackle complex issues, with new ways of enabling listening, consensus building and inclusion central to this.
Examples are emerging of governments, organisations and communities that have harnessed digital democracy tools in particular to ensure that citizen voices are heard in key choices around COVID-19 recovery. For example, the Scottish Government’s “Dialogue Challenge”, Demos’ People’s Commission, rapid online deliberation (by Involve, Ada Lovelace Institute, Traverse and Bang the Table), and online conversations (‘Challenges we face’ by Engage Britain).
Many of the Democracy Pioneers projects have been affected dramatically, with the organisations using creative methods at pace to pivot their work towards a physically-distanced context. What we are learning from the changes they are making serves as an example of the type of large-scale change we need to see if democracy is to thrive post-COVID.
The Democracy Pioneers Award has been given to 19 innovative projects that span the informal to formal, grassroots to national level in their approach to revitalising democracy and civic participation. Since the widespread onset of COVID-19 in the UK, we’ve been liaising with organisations that we support to understand how they’ve pivoted their models to address community needs and what challenges they have encountered in the process. The key themes that have emerged from these discussions are as follows.
Many of the Pioneers we work with have taken their face-to-face programmes online and have developed new programmes to meet changing community needs.
While each project is unique, now more than before, they are facing similar challenges and see a need for change on similar themes. This includes but is not limited to:
The challenges and opportunities outlined capture initial feedback and are by no means exhaustive. Between now and October, we will be working with the Pioneers to explore this further.
We will be sharing iterative research on innovation in democracy as we go and hope to gather feedback and input from the broader field in an agile way. This will include an initial framework for understanding innovation in democracy, a more detailed exploration of the conditions, barriers and enablers for demoractic innovation and what will be needed in the future for the field to flourish.
This work is intended to be a practical series of steps, and will be shaped by our Pioneers ideas and experiences. Through our research, upcoming Pioneers Blog Series and scheduled events, we welcome your engagement with our posts, and are keen to hear your thoughts and ideas in the coming months.
Originally posted here
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