What is the Democracy Box
This is background information on The Democracy Box. For The Democracy Box website please click here
The Democracy Box Report is now live!!!!
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
The Democracy Box© and The Talking Shop© and all associated content is copyright Yvonne Murphy/Omidaze Productions 2020.
The Four Democracy Box Prototypes
- The Democracy Box Public Information Campaign©
- The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© Pilot Schools Programme
- The Talking Shop© A public cultural and democratic information centre/signposting/navigational democracy hub
- The Democracy Box Toolkit© for working with young people as co-creators prototype
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 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.
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.
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:
- The Democracy Box Podcast Series
- 4 Democracy Box raps commissioned by BBC Bitesize
- The Democracy Box on Instagram
- The Democracy Box on TikTok
- The Democracy Box YouTube Channel
- The Democracy Box on Twitter
At the core of this project are young people. Omidaze have now recruited over 60 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
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.
Democratic education/information, using creative approaches, must be provided year-round to all citizens from age 7 onwards via three routes:
- Public information campaigns for all ages, co-created with young people, including those from the historically lowest voter turn-out constituencies, and they must be paid for their time, skills, insights and experience.
- One-stop shop democracy hubs, both online and face to face, which are easy to access, welcoming, safe, creative and inspiring. Spaces where unexpected, informed and open conversations and creative approaches to deliberative democracy can begin. Spaces that can help us to build trust in our democracy and begin to tackle our democratic deficit and polarisation. Spaces that can enable us all to be informed and participating citizens; empowered to make the change we want to see in society.
- Democratic education baked into the primary and secondary school curriculums from age 7 to age 16 using inspiring and creative methods.
The four Democracy Box prototypes have been created, trialled and tested for all three routes and are ready to be upscaled.
What happens next?
Researched, created and tested predominantly in Wales with young co-creators born or based in Wales, all four prototypes have the potential to be up-scaled and rolled out across Wales and potentially the UK.
Omidaze passionately believes that it is vital that The Democracy Box is a ‘public good’ and therefore needs to be co-owned/co-produced by companies who have public service and democratic education and information as their core purpose. The vision is for publicly funded, arms-length organisations, including the BBC and the Electoral Commission, to come together and be the guardians of The Democracy Box and develop, embed, up-scale and roll out the prototypes in partnership.
Omidaze’s vision and aims for the prototypes:
The Democracy Box public information campaign prototype – for Omidaze to incrementally step away and for young co-creators to be upskilled and trained to lead The Democracy Box Public Information Campaign into the future under the guardianship of the BBC and the Electoral Commission and possibly more key stakeholder organisations. If it is to succeed, the public information prototype needs to constantly change and evolve. The platforms that are being currently used will soon be obsolete and replaced by new trends and tech within the next decade. The only way to create a sustainable model is to ensure that 16 to 26 year olds are at the helm and constantly being recruited, trained and paid as co-creators.
The Creative Cascade programme for schools prototype – for the
programme to be government funded in each of the four nations and delivered in
partnership with local authorities and education consortia and rolled out either by the
Welsh Government pan-Wales or piecemeal by all local authorities, potentially in collaboration or partnership with the BBC and the Electoral Commission.
The Talking Shop prototype – for this to be blueprinted and a non-commercial ‘franchise’ model created that allows Omidaze to own and be responsible for the design and overall concept and handover the management and running of the model to collectives of stakeholders in each town in which it operates, under the joint guardianship of the BBC and the Electoral Commission. The aim is for the model to be funded in each location by the collective of stakeholders (multiple local and national stakeholders whose remits include democratic and/or cultural engagement, participation, consultation, opportunities and services) with an additional core government grant made available as match funding. The Talking Shop model should be used to complement and support existing models such as citizen’s assemblies and citizen’s panels.
The Democracy Box toolkit – for this one prototype to provide commercial income for Omidaze/Yvonne Murphy in the form of both consultancy and licensing.
“This work mustn’t end here…”
– Democracy Box online sharing attendee
So what happens now? Will this body of research from the past three and a half years (10 years if you include the root and foundation of this research and development) and all the work done with and by young people simply fall off the edge of the cliff?
One thing this research has made clear to Omidaze is that when it comes to democracy, we, as a society, are very good at re-inventing the wheel and implementing short-term projects, fixes and solutions and are really quite poor at sustained, strategic and long-term, joined-up solutions. If we are to change the current levels of democratic participation (whether measured through the traditional and arguably unhelpful optics of voter registration and voter turn-out or through alternative and more holistic and creative methods), then we need to have sustained and long-term solutions to this very real, growing and urgent problem of our democratic deficit.
This report recommends that the basics of our existing democracy are shared routinely to all adults via public information campaigns and democracy hubs (online and in person) and via formal and non-formal education settings from primary year 2 to secondary year 11 and that this then forms the foundation for all democratic education and citizenship teaching.
The solution(s) needs to be funded by the state and be independent and non-partisan. It also needs to have young people aged 16 to 26 at the very heart of the solution’s creation and curation.
The Democracy Box prototypes have been trialled and tested for this purpose.
The only current obstacle to scaling up these prototypes is capacity and investment. Investing in The Democracy Box prototypes outlined in this report, along with additional digital tools, such as writetothem.com, theyworkforyou.com and whocanIvotefor.co.uk, and existing models, such as citizen’s assemblies and citizen’s panels, could be a game changer for our Welsh and UK democracy and radically increase democratic participation both at and beyond the ballot box.
Omidaze remains optimistic. However, there is a long way to go and the strain on a tiny non-core funded arts organisation to facilitate and sustain this work is beginning to take its toll.
How is this Work Funded?
Clwstwr funded The Democracy Box’s research and development from 2020 to 2021. Part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CIPC), Clwstwr was an ambitious research, development and innovation programme (2018 – 2023). Clwstwr funded 118 R&D projects in the news and screen sectors which created new products, services and experiences.
Further prototype development has been made possible through partnerships with the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, the Electoral Commission, the Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre, Wales Millennium Centre and Youth Cymru with additional support from and the Cares Family/UnLtd and over 30 collaborating organisations.
The Democracy Box was created by Yvonne Murphy aka Omidaze Productions along with over 60 young co-creators from across Wales. The need for it was identified during The Talking Shop 2019 pilot where so many visitors asked Yvonne if she could show them somewhere on their phone that explained our whole UK democracy in a simple and easy to access way. The Talking Shop is 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.