News and Comment

The role of Digital in Local Participation: Kai Rudat Memorial Breakfast Seminar

Wednesday 19 November 2014


On the morning of Tuesday 25 November we are hosting a breakfast seminar on the role of digital in local participation, with speakers from across local government and the voluntary and community sector sharing their experiences of how they have used digital means to facilitate dialogue with citizens.

Digital presents an opportunity for local government and the voluntary and community sector to involve the public in decision making on their own terms, through channels that are less institutionally-focused and more citizen-driven. It offers the potential for citizens to engage and mobilise around local issues and local needs, opening up new virtual spaces for civil society where ideas can be proposed and discussed in an immediate and highly visible way.

Recent research however, has found that 11 million people in the UK still lack basic digital skills and capabilities. It’s hard to believe that in an age where the internet is at the heart of society, 21% of Britain’s population remains ‘digitally excluded’. This has a real social and human impact. But more people, networks and organisations having digital access will not be sufficient to re-energise local participation in itself. The digital approach sits within a wider engagement landscape and is just one of the tools which can cultivate active citizenship around local needs – both ‘online’ and ‘offline’.

During the event we will hear innovative case studies of how our speakers have engaged members of their respective constituencies and those sometimes considered ‘hard to reach’, often from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. These examples of good practice and experiences of key challenges and barriers to a digital approach will be open to questioning and discussion with our audience.

Dr Andy Williamson @andy_williamson will shape the discussion for us. He has extensive national experience in digital democracy, online campaigning and citizen engagement and will be raising themes such as:

What do local leaders need to do to engage effectively in digital dialogue with citizens? Are there any features particular to localities with high levels of digital engagement and what are these features? How do we measure success in digital engagement? Where does the digital approach sit within the wider engagement landscape? What platforms are used, and are theses the right ones? Where both online and offline engagement methods are combined, have these complemented each other or is there a tension between the two?

Our presenters will be:

Cllr Peter Fleming  @dmontfort – Leader of Sevenoaks Council, presenter to the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, discussing the changing nature of representation in a digital age.

Cllr Peter Lowe  @CllrPete  – Deputy Leader of Dudley Council, the first local authority in the UK to bring public meetings to Facebook.

Sam Mauger  @ageuklondon – Chief Executive of Age UK London, deliverers of the ‘MiCommunity’ intergenerational digital inclusion project.

Chris Martin  @mondomartin – Operations Director of Youthnet, whose online digital service ‘TheSite’ is accessed by 85,000 16–25 year olds each month.

Debbie Moss  @vinspired  – Public Affairs and Policy Manager of vInspired, who have focussed on how digital plays a role in young people’s participation in political issues across a number of programmes, particularly through the recently launched ‘Do Something Swing the Vote’ campaign.

There are a limited number of places still available for the event via our Eventbrite page. Registration opens from 8.30am.  So book up now or follow the debate using the hashtag #digitalparticipation on Twitter.