Democracy Matters wins ‘Westminster’s Oscars’

The Electoral Reform Society and leading academics picked up the Democratic Innovation Award for their Citizens’ Assembly project at last night’s (29th November) Political Studies Association Annual Awards in Westminster.

The project brought together politicians, regional leaders and the public to debate the government’s English devolution plans at a local level, with the Democracy Matters’ citizens’ assemblies aiming to address the gap that has emerged between the public and formal politics.

Between October and November 2015, two pilot assemblies were run in Southampton (Assembly South) and Sheffield (Assembly North) and to ask how new regional powers can be established in a form that is supported by the people who live locally.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This prize means a great deal – especially to those who believe involving citizens in political processes is central to building a healthy democracy. At a time of growing disillusionment in mainstream politics, it’s vital that politicians at all levels recognise the need to close the democratic gap and give voters a real say over their communities.”

The pilot assemblies compared and contrasted different assembly design types and revealed how to ‘do’ politics differently and the long-term benefits of such an approach in an era that appears defined by anti-politics.

Ghose added:

Democracy Matters was a truly collaborative and innovative effort between universities and the Electoral Reform Society, and offers a framework for promoting positive, evidence-based change in our democracy. It’s an honour to receive this award on behalf of all the academics and individuals who organised it – but more importantly, for the local citizens who put in so much of their time and energy to deliberate about devolution.”

Now in its 15th year, the PSA Awards pays tribute to those that have made outstanding contributions to the study and conduct of politics in the past year. The Citizens’ Assembly project achieved both, by bringing together an alliance of university researchers and civil society organisations to pilot new ways of promoting informed public engagement around the English devolution agenda.

Professor Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southampton, said:

“The citizens’ assemblies in Southampton and Sheffield challenged the myth that people are disengaged from politics. When citizens are given the chance to assess a range of positions and possibilities they do it with gusto – people are more than capable of grappling with complex questions about the way we are governed.

“This marks an important contribution to the conversation about politics and democracy in this country. We have shown there is a real potential for a new way of doing things.”

On receiving the award, Katie Ghose said:

“At a time of huge constitutional upheaval, involving citizens is not only desirable – it’s essential. The EU referendum was the start, not the end, of public involvement in constitutional issues, and it’s time to put words about ‘building a democracy that works for everyone’ into action.”

The Democracy Matters team consisted of Katie Ghose (Electoral Reform Society), Matt Flinders (University of Sheffield), Will Jennings (University of Southampton), Edward Molloy (Electoral Reform Society), Brenton Prosser (University of Sheffield), Alan Renwick (University College London), Graham Smith (University of Westminster), Paulo Spada (University of Southampton) and Gerry Stoker (University of Southampton).

As an ESRC-funded ‘rapid response’ project, Democracy Matters demonstrates the capacity of the social sciences to undertake rigorous, risky and high-impact research in an agile and highly responsive manner.

The master of ceremonies on the evening was Jon Snow (Channel 4 News), and the award was presented by the First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones. Other winners include Grayson Perry (Contribution to the Arts and Culture), Michael Ignatieff (International Recognition Award), Gordon Brown (Lifetime Achievement in Politics) and Ruth Davidson (Best Use of Social Media).


Read more about the Citizens’ Assemblies project here: and here

  • The 15th Annual PSA Awards was held at Church House, Westminster, London on 29 November 2016 to celebrate noteworthy academics, journalists, politicians, political campaigners and policy-makers who have made significant contributions to the conduct and study of politics.Notes to editors
  • This year’s Awards Jury included Robert Barrington (Executive Director, Transparency International), Stephen Khan (Editor, The Conversation), Marjorie Wallace (CEO, SANE) and Professor Matthew Flinders (Chair, PSA).
  • The 2016 PSA Awards were sponsored by The Alliance for Useful Evidence, Elsevier, Routledge, SAGE Publications and YouGov.
  • Photos from the event will be available from Wednesday 30 November via the PSA Flickr account.
  • The Awards ceremony will be broadcast by BBC Parliament and available to view on BBC iPlayer after the event
  • Follow social media coverage of the awards at @PolStudiesAssoc and #PSAAwards.

Comments are closed.