Simon says …in a complex world, we need deeper democracy

One of the great UK thinker and architects of democracy systems, Simon Burall at Involve is making a change today and it is one that might affect us all.


Simon’s achievements at Involve have been numerous. They include his leadership and innovation on open government. Under his leadership Involve has championed the cause of open government as a worldwide movement. He oversaw the development of the UK Open Government Network, and ensured the UK’s Open Government Partnership process was established as a widely recognised model of good practice.

Simon’s tenure has also seen Involve lead the push for deliberative public engagement on complex and controversial science and technology innovations. Finally, Simon has played a critical role in the thought leadership provided by Involve. He has made the case for deliberation and engagement across a raft of policy areas, developed Involve’s theory on deliberative systems, and innovated new models of citizen engagement on public services.

As Chair of Involve (not the day job, I know) I am delighted that Simon will continue to work with Involve as Senior Associate. That gives him the space to work further around the concept of deeper democracy, including how society responds to complexity and the emerging challenges and opportunities of science, technology and data.

We have appointed Tim Hughes as Involve’s new Director. Tim’s vision, expertise and dedication to Involve’s cause make his the strongest possible pair of hands to guide Involve into its next phase.

As Tim writes today, “If Involve didn’t exist, now would be the time to invent it”. Overcoming the triple threat of disillusionment, polarisation and disconnection will be one of the defining challenges of the decade to come. With our skills and expertise in citizen participation, open government, deliberation and facilitation, we believe that Involve is uniquely placed to take a leading role in facing that challenge.

It is time to speak up on democracy and Involve has something precious to offer, which is a vision of a deeper democracy. John Dewey described democracy as conversation, and Simon’s tireless work in favour of a more deliberative democracy is a cause that is worth fighting for. Co-operatives talk about everyday democracy – and indeed are written into the Italian constitution on exactly that basis. In a more complex world, we need to upgrade our democratic systems and culture.

A lot depends on it. Thank you, Simon.




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