The Democracy Box

What is The Democracy Box?

The Democracy Box is a year long politically neutral and non-party political research and development project.

Watch the feedback video from our young co-creators from phase 1 earlier in 2020 here

The Democracy Box aim is to develop prototypes of public and educational information campaigns which create a better basic understanding of our Welsh and UK democratic systems and structures by a wider percentage of the population.

These ongoing year round public and educational information campaign prototypes could potentially increase civic engagement and be developed and replicated across the UK.

The Democracy Box is a Clwstwr funded R&D project.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find useful links to all our devolved parliaments and UK parliament and to existing useful content which explains our democratic system.

What is needed and Why?

The seed phase R&D confirmed:

  • The majority of Welsh and UK citizens do not have a sound basic understanding of the UK democracy and how local, devolved and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

A better understanding of the UK democratic systems and structures by a wider percentage of the population is required.

Listen to the young co-creators talking about the first phase of this project on this mini podcast.

So how do we captivate and engage an audience of millions and include young co-creators/curators and intrigue everyone enough to want to engage with and participate in our democracy all year round and not simply at the ballot box?

Because if we get that right, we think higher engagement and therefore voter turnout will follow.

“Across the world young people are realising that democracies have failed them and future generations to come on issue like climate change, jobs and skills and wellbeing. Part of this problem may be that our education system does not provide enough support to young people to help them understand and engage with democratic systems or processes. The holistic nature of the new curriculum provides an opportunity to address this but teachers and learners must be supported to find creative ways to.  This programme is a way of doing exactly that” 
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

The cycle of poor shared storytelling.

The young people I interviewed, surveyed and spoke with were all, without exception, keen to understand our democracy and frustrated that they didn’t. “Why weren’t we taught this at school?” was 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. We need ‘NoShameNoBlame’ surrounding our UK democracy story as two of the young co-creators from phase one titled their podcast.

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.

What’s the solution?

We have identified two possible solutions which we aim to create prototypes of:

  1. A Public Information Campaign – old style Public Information Films broken up into different lengths and formats which sit on multiple media platforms from broadcast to social media and are ongoing and all year round .
  2. An Educational Information Campaign – information embedded into the new Welsh Curriculum from years 5 – 11 and training & toolkits for all teachers which is ongoing and all year round

 

What we are doing is not radical and yet we cannot quite believe it doesn’t exist. Simple basic information created by young people to explain the fundamental knowledge blocks of our UK democracy. The basics that every citizen should know. Non-election all year-round information.

Together with collaborators, creatives and those disengaged young people from those lowest voter turn-out constituencies we are trying to work out how to make the simplest and ‘stickiest’ Public Information Campaign and Educational Information Campaign possible to share the  basic level information to the largest number of people possible on an ongoing year round basis and create the foundation for all the other voter and election related information.

To make it clear I have divided voter information into four levels. See below. The Democracy Box project is all about level one.

Working with Young people as Co-Creators

At the core of this project are young people. We workshopped, surveyed, interviewed, focus grouped and co-created with young people, including those from low turnout constituencies, in phase 1 and will be doing so again in 2021.

Watch the Ten young people aged 16-30 feedback film who were involved in phase one. Some of those will join us in this second stage along with some new young people. There will be an open call out to recruit them. Follow us on twitter & Facebook.

You can watch our presentation of our phase one work here and the initial young-co-creators ideas.

We are creating a best practice guide for co-creating and collaborating with young people and would be happy to talk about this or help others wanting to engage inclusively, meaningfully and creatively with young people.

By knowledge of our democracy we do not mean party politics

Although the need for neutral factual information about the main political parties which is not linked to election campaigning came up regularly.

We mean informing and educating people about the neutral nuts and bolts. The difference between local government, devolved and Westminster. The difference between the First Minister and the Prime Minister and between an MS , MP and a councillor and what they are each responsible for. Understanding First Past the Post vs Proportional Representation and what a constituency is and what things are devolved in Wales and how laws are made and by whom and what our taxes pay for and who decides and what even the word democracy itself means and how we can get involved and have our say all year round and not just on election days.

Illustrations by  Maria Elorza Saralegui & Vicky Yang

We’ve broken down the information citizens want and need into four levels based on what people have told us they want and need. This project is specifically focussed on Level 1 and how to get that information to the largest number of people possible on an ongoing year round basis to create the foundation for all the other information.

The Four Levels of Democratic Information

  1. Foundation. Non-Election specific. The fundamental knowledge blocks of our UK democracy. The basics that every citizen should know
  2. Political Party Basics. The history & Values of each specific UK political party. Non Election specific
  3. Election Specific Information Nuts & Bolts where & how to register & vote
  4. Election Specific Party Political Information: Manifestos ,Policies, factual, positional, comparative, analytical & evaluative information to enable voters to decide who to vote for in an election

 

Leading up to the first election in Wales where 16 year olds can vote for the first time, there is fast and furious work being done by many organisations including the Electoral Commission, the Welsh Government, the Welsh Parliament, the Electoral Reform Society, educators across Wales and many more. More content is being created. More resources. More teacher/educator guides and packs. 

There are a lot of ‘players’ or ‘actors’ in the ‘democracy sector’ all doing brilliant and important work. Many of them are named collaborators on this project.

Any prototype we create must signpost and enable us all us to all to access and navigate our way through all that brilliant content and resources already out there and understand and share our collective story.

Because only when we all know our collective story will we be able to write the next chapter, together.

And who is going to pay for all this?

Ultimately I believe this Basic Information and the dissemination of it is the responsibility of the state. We have the platforms to disseminate it in the shape of our state education system and our state funded broadcasters who have it written into their charters and purposes. It needs to be funded by the state and be independent and non-partisan and it needs to have young people aged 16-30 at the very heart of it’s creation and curation.

Together with our collaborators Omidaze are exploring how to create information campaign prototypes with young people and also

  1. How to support the creation of a public facing hub or one stop shop which can also be that teacher toolkit and be where the Public Information Films sit and can also also signpost to and enable people to navigate their way through all the already brilliant existing democracy content for all four levels of information
  2. How to launch and support the prototypes and hub/one stop shop with live and ongoing public events.

What happens next is yet to be written.

If you would like to collaborate on this project, have a conversation or have any information you would like to share please email Yvonne at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

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

If you want to find out more about your elected representatives and the UK Democracy all fits together have a look further down at all the very useful links below

THE DEMOCRACY BOX CONFIRMED COLLABORATORS so far are…

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

The Democractic Society 

The Senedd Cymru/ Welsh Parliament Engagement Team

Electoral Reform Society Cymru

Nesta’s YLab

The Politics Project

The Urdd

I Have A Voice

The Democracy Box Clwstwr Co-Investigator is Richard Sambrook.

Useful links…

Electoral Commission

Hwb 

Welsh Parliament

Write To Them

They Work For You

My Society

British Youth Council

Shout Out

The Democracy Club

Simple Politics

 

Illustrations by  Maria Elorza Saralegui & Vicky Yang

Links to websites for our democratic institutions

Welsh Parliament 

UK Parliament 

Scottish Parliament

Northern Ireland Parliament

 

More Useful Links to Content which explains our Democratic System

How to Contact Your MP

Westminster Resource Introduction to Parliament

How Parliament Works in nearly 60 seconds

Who’s in charge of Britain Horrible Histories

An Introduction to Parliament (Primary)

Houses of History – Explore the story of Parliament and democracy Westminster Resource

What is Proportional Representation 

What is the House of Commons? 

UK Parliament Watch & Listen This is a great Westminster resource which explains just about everything to do with UK Westminster Parliament

Welsh Parliament -Who we are and what we do 

How your vote works in Wales 

Democracy in the UK today University of Leeds

What is democracy? – with Danny Wallace Westminster Resource

How do Laws get passed in the UK 

Proportional Representation vs 1st past the post

Overview of the UK system of government

Britain’s political system explained

A brief history of representation, from monarchy to democracy

Elections and voting explained (primary) Westminster Resource

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England 

How do laws get passed by parliament?