UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


One size does not fit all: contextualising deliberative democracy

08 February 2024, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

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Join us for a Soundbite with Brenda Ogembo, Principal Clerk Assistant and Deputy Head of the Senate Liaison Office at the Parliament of Kenya.

Event Information

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UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Room B34
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street

About this event

Deliberative democracy is increasingly gaining traction, but the design of, and ongoing research into the emerging models of deliberation, are primarily contextualised for the Global North. The current literature on deliberation has a glaring Western-centric bias, with a significant proportion of empirical research on deliberation conducted in Western cultural contexts. The result of this is increasingly complex and resource-intensive ‘qualifying’ deliberation processes that could mean deliberation could become the preserve of the ‘rich’. Deliberation, however, has a rich history in the context of many indigenous communities. For example, some scholars have argued that there is ‘considerable evidence that decisions by consensus were often the order of the day in African deliberations’ (Wiredu, 1995, p. 53). The relationship with deliberation, they argue, is not new, and consensual democracy was the dominant form of decision-making in traditional African societies, thereby making deliberation more likely to succeed in political decision-making when compared to aggregate democracy. Why, then, isn’t there more experimentation in the literature with contextualising deliberative practices for various societies? Are we perhaps missing a critical opportunity to revitalise democracy by continuing to seek a one-size-fits-all approach in the design of deliberative assemblies? Having worked in legislative development in Kenya for over a decade, I will reflect on what I see as opportunities to institutionalise deliberation in legislative environments creatively with a specific focus on the Global South. I will discuss experiences from my work in the Kenya Parliament that point to the importance of contextualisation of deliberative processes if they are to succeed in revitalising democracy.

About the speaker

Brenda Ogembo is a public policy and governance researcher and practitioner passionate about championing democracy, good governance, and accountability. Her research focuses on citizen engagement, parliamentary studies, and devolved government. Her

professional competencies and practice include policy analysis, legislative review, and intergovernmental liaison. She actively researches and advocates for effective public deliberation in governance institutions. Her primary aim in her research and practice is to contribute to a global understanding of citizen engagement experiences in legislatures, focusing on the Global South and how deliberative democracy can strengthen democracy in those settings. Brenda is a Principal Clerk Assistant in the Senate of the Parliament of Kenya, where she currently serves as the Deputy Head of the Senate Liaison Office. In this capacity, she oversees research and learning on devolved governance in Kenya to inform the work of the Senate. She also works to build diverse collaborative relationships supporting the Senate's key mandate of protecting devolution. Brenda holds a PhD in Politics (Local Government Studies) from the University of Birmingham, UK; a Master of Arts (Public Policy) from Kings College, London; and a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) from Strathmore University in Kenya.


An access guide to Room B34, Birkbeck can be found on AccessAble.

About this event series

Deliberative democracy: Rethinking democracy for 21st century prosperity

This Director’s Seminars and Soundbites series provides a thought-provoking exploration of the contemporary discussions surrounding deliberative democracy's structure and form, as well as the possibilities for renewing democracy. It aims to stimulate critical thinking and foster open dialogues regarding the challenges confronting us.

Soundbites are a platform for professionals and entrepreneurs who are leading in their field. Speakers are innovators and inspiring actors working in new and traditional sectors, outside of academia. The Soundbite gives the audience an insight into how their organisation contributes to sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

For more events in this series visit the series page ►