What is the Democracy Box

The Democracy Box© is about young people finding new creative ways to share The Story of our UK Democracy That Every Citizen Should Know In Seven Short Chapters so that all young people, old people and everyone in between can understand our UK democracy and can take part in it.

The Democracy Box© works with young people aged 16-26, born or based in Wales, as paid co-creators. It has developed four prototypes which seek to increase democratic participation and provide information about the UK’s democratic system and structures.

Click here if you would like to apply to become a young co-creator

The Democracy Box© is non-partisan (it’s not about party politics) and, along with all of Omidaze’s work, is committed to the

United Nations 17 Sustainable Goals

 

Omidaze is the Electoral Commission’s Youth Voice partner in Wales and we have formed  a legal partnership with the Future Generations Commissioner . These partnerships are enabling us to develop The Democracy Box© prototypes and The Talking Shop©.

The Democracy Box© and The Talking Shop© and all associated content is copyright Yvonne Murphy/Omidaze Productions 2020.

 

The Four Democracy Box Prototypes

  1. The Democracy Box Public Information Campaign©
  2. The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© Pilot Schools Programme
  3. The Democracy Box Toolkit© for working with young people as co-creators prototype
  4. The Talking Shop© A public cultural and democratic information centre/signposting/navigational democracy hub

 

The Democracy Box Public Information Campaign© enables young people to find authentic, engaging and creative new ways to retell The Story of our UK Democracy that Every Citizen Should Know© and includes songs, podcasts, videos and illustrations by young people which sit across multiple social and broadcast media platforms.

 

The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© Schools Programme will enable teachers in primary & secondary schools to meet the new Curriculum for Wales requirements by sharing The Story of our UK Democracy that Every Citizen Should Know© with students aged 7-16 and upskill them as young co-creators. Together teachers and students will creatively retell and cascade the story multiple times and in multiple ways, developing democratic awareness, understanding and participation amongst all school children in Wales.

 

The Democracy Box Toolkit© is a best practice guide for anyone co-creating and collaborating with young people. This toolkit will enable organisations to place young people at the heart of all work which is created to reach their age range. The toolkit will support organisations and individuals in both the democracy sector and beyond to engage inclusively, meaningfully and creatively with young people. The toolkit draws together Yvonne’s body of participatory work and artistic practice from over thirty years, including her knowledge and experience of working with young people across the UK and internationally and combines it with 18 months of intensive Research & Development funded by Clwstwr.

 

The Talking Shop© is a cultural and democratic information centre and signposting/navigational democracy hub. Inside you will find The Democracy Box. The Talking Shop is a public space which explores the intersection between cultural and democratic participation one conversation at a time. We need A Talking Shop in every town and city in Wales creating face to face voter engagement & a shop window for our creativity and democracy combined.

Working with young people as co-creators

Omidaze have created The Story of our UK Democracy That Every Citizen Should Know in Seven Short Chapters This ‘story’ contains the basics which we think every citizen needs to know to fully participate in our UK democracy.

This information is in a story format because our research shows that using story is the best way to engage and share complex or dry information.

All The Democracy Box young co-creators use these seven chapters to creatively retell the story using social media, video, music, rap, podcasts and more.

You can find some examples of how they have retold this story so far on multiple social and broadcast media platforms by clicking any of these links:

At the core of this project are young people. Omidaze have now recruited over 30 young co-creators aged 16-30 from across Wales, including those from the five lowest voter turnout constituencies and we are paying them to be co-creators of the project.

Omidaze also hold creative think-ins and focus/feedback groups with many more young people to research, develop, test and evaluate the work.

“..when I first joined the “Democracy Box’ I really didn’t know anything, in fact, I didn’t even know that Britain was a democratic country… I honestly believe that we need more black and more female representatives within the world of democracy to convince and allow young people to meet people they have more comfort in trusting and listening to.”Young Co-Creator aged 17

The Democracy Box© aims are to promote understanding of our UK democracy and achieve a shared basic level of understanding by the majority of the population.

For our UK democracy to be fully functioning it needs all citizens to be informed, actively encouraged to get involved and to understand that it is their democratic right to challenge, question, protest, shape, critique, debate and influence our democracy all year round and not just at the ballot box.

The Cycle of Poor Shared Storytelling

All the young people interviewed, surveyed, focus grouped and contracted as young co-creators have all, without exception, been keen to understand our democracy and frustrated that they didn’t.

“Why weren’t we taught this at school?” is the constant refrain.

There is a shame accompanying not knowing this stuff which moves with us through into adulthood and gets harder and harder to admit to.

Many Welsh and UK citizens, including teachers and educators do not have a sound basic understanding of the UK democracy, for example how local, devolved and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

We need #NoShameNoBlame surrounding our UK democracy story as two of the young co-creators from phase one titled their initial podcast idea.

If we are to have a fully functioning democracy which will include increased voter registration, voter turn-out, and meaningful democratic and civic engagement and participation all year round then a better understanding of the UK democratic systems and structures by a wider percentage of the population is required.

If you are a teacher, it is hard enough to stand in front of a class and teach your own subject.

To teach something you do not understand yourself and to do it creatively and thereby engage and inspire young people is a tall order.

Teachers may sidestep it all together or resort to the passive practice of putting on a video or handing out a workbook resulting in low level or zero understanding and engagement.

The cycle of poor story sharing thereby continues and low democratic engagement and participation with it.

The Democracy Box© can change that.

 

The Four Levels of Democratic Information

Four Levels

Illustration Maria Elorza The 4 Levels of voter/citizen information Copyright Yvonne Murphy Omidaze Productions 2020

We’ve broken down the information citizens/voters want and need into 4 Levels.

Levels 1 and 2 are non-election specific voter/citizen information.

Levels 3 and 4 are election specific voter/citizen information.

Level 1 is the focus of The Democracy Box, young co-work and all four prototypes – how to tell the story of our UK democracy so everyone hears it and understands it.

Level 1 is the story of our UK democracy that every citizen should know and information that we all need all year round and not just when there is an election coming up. The basics. What the difference is between local government, devolved government and UK government and how they all fit together and our elected representatives are and who is responsible for what and why. What devolution is and what areas are devolved. What the difference is between a parliament and a government. And crucially that democracy is us the people, all of us and is not a fixed thing done to us. All citizens must be given the knowledge, tools, information, confidence and permission to have their voices heard and take part, challenge, and shape and influence our democracy all year round and not simply at the Ballot Box.

Level 2 is the factual information about all the political parties outside of an election. Their history, values and ideologies. A basic summary of what they stand for and why and which is available all year round and not just when they are not asking for your vote. This is something the majority of young people we have listened to have asked for.

Level 3 is the election procedural stuff, which the electoral commission does so well. How and where to vote. How to register, where your polling station is, election timelines, how to complete a postal vote or by proxy etc etc. The nuts and bolts.

Level 4 is the party political election specific information. The comparative and analytical tools and information which all citizens need to decide who to vote for e.g. who the candidates are and what they are promising they will do if elected. The manifestos from all political parties. The hustings. (Most young people don’t know what the words manifesto and hustings mean) Basically who are the candidates, what are they promising to do and what they and their parties stand for.

Levels 3 & 4 are where most of the time, energy, focus and resources are spent but without investment in the foundation of Level 1 (and we would argue Level 2 also) we will never truly change the status quo and voter registration,  turn-out and democratic participation generally will remain low or worse still decrease.

There are many people working hard on voter information and political education in Wales & the UK. Omidaze are proud to be collaborating with many of them.

This research has evidenced an urgent need for ‘A Conversation with the Nation’ preceded by large scale and ongoing public and education information campaigns which would aim to achieve a base level of understanding of our current UK democracy and Welsh constitution by the majority of the population.

All of Omidaze’s research since 2019 evidences that such an information campaign is absolutely vital if any proposed ‘Conversation with the Nation’ is to be inclusive and truly representative of the citizen voice and if we are really able to claim that we have a fully functioning and meaningful democracy.

What happens next?

Omidaze believe The Talking Shop© and The Democracy Box© can together be used to

 

  1. Provide all citizens across the UK with the basic information that we all need to take part in our democratic society.
  2. Create a ground breaking ‘Conversation with the Nation’ across Wales and potentially the UK
  3. Research and increase cultural and democratic participation in Wales and the UK
  4. Provide safe and creative live and digital spaces where unexpected, informed and open conversations can begin. Spaces which have the potential to help tackle our epidemic of loneliness and isolation. Conversations which might just help us to make the change we want to see in the world or at least how we see and experience it.

Omidaze, together with 34 young co-creators and over fifty more young people from across Wales aged 16-26, plus leading academics, collaborators, stakeholders and professional creatives, has researched, developed and tested The Talking Shop©/The Democracy Box© prototypes as models for a ‘Conversation With The Nation’ with young people from across Wales from March 2020- December 2021.

The response to these models has been overwhelmingly positive.

Omidaze will re-open the Cardiff Talking Shop this Spring 2022 with The Democracy Box inside.

The plan is for the Cardiff Talking Shop to remain open for a year from April 2022 – March 2023 whilst simultaneously trialling secondary Talking Shops in locations across Wales to research and develop a blueprint for a ‘Conversation with the Nation’ using The Talking Shop©/Democracy Box© models.

To date Omidaze has secured enough funding for two out the proposed twelve months for The Cardiff Talking Shop and a one month secondary trial in Newport thanks to Welsh Government third sector funding in collaboration with the Riverfront Newport and Youth Cymru. Other areas currently being explored for secondary trial Talking Shops are Merthyr, Wrexham, Swansea & Aberystwyth.

We are currently seeking additional funding.

If you would like to support, invest or collaborate on this project, have a conversation or explore a trial Talking Shop in your area please email Yvonne at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com.

You can read the proof of concept and report from phase one here.

How is this Work Funded?

The Democracy Box© began as non-partisan research and development project funded originally by Clwstwr from March 2020 until summer 2021 and Youth Cymru until October 2021. Omidaze is now in partnership with the Future Generations Commissioner and has been awarded funding/tenders since November 2021 to develop The Democracy Box prototypes and The Talking Shop by:

  • The Office of the Future Generations Commissioner
  • The Electoral Commission
  • The Welsh Government
  • Central South Education Consortia

The Democracy Box© was created by Yvonne Murphy aka Omidaze Productions along with 33 young co-creators from across Wales as a result of The Talking Shop© a democratic and cultural information centre, which Yvonne/Omidaze first conceived of in 2017 and created and piloted and tested in Cardiff in 2019 thanks to funding and support from National Theatre Wales, Senedd Cymru, Dirty Protest, Creative Cardiff and a team of volunteers.

The Democracy Box© and The Talking Shop© and all associated content is copyright Yvonne Murphy/Omidaze Productions 2020.