The Constitution Unit


Democracy Matters project

Democracy Matters
The Democracy Matters project ran two citizens' assemblies, in Sheffield and Southampton, in autumn 2015. Each assembly comprised around thirty people, who met over two weekends to learn about and deliberate upon options for the reform of local governance and democracy in their areas. The project examined how successfully the citizens' assembly model can be applied in the UK.  It also explored two variants of that model: one in which all members are ordinary members of the public, the other in which a minority of members are elected politicians.

The Constitution Unit's Alan Renwick worked with Principal Investigator Matthew Flinders (University of Sheffield) and colleagues from the Universities of Westminster and Southampton and from the Electoral Reform Society to design and deliver the two assemblies and to research the processes that unfolded. This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Alan Renwick delivered the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit in 2017 which built on many of the insights gained through Democracy Matters.

For full details of the assemblies, see the project website.

Project report

The main output from the project was a report: Democracy Matters: Lessons from the 2015 Citizens' Assemblies on English Devolution (March 2016). This outlined how the citizens' assemblies ran, summarised their conclusions, analysed their effectiveness, and considered what lessons could be learned for similar exercises in the future.

Download the report.

Scholarly articles

Other outputs

  • Alan Renwick and Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, discussed the findings in a Constitution Unit seminar in February 2016.
  • Alan Renwick summarised some of the core lessons in a blogpost in November 2015.
  • Further information is available on the project website.

Related Constitution Unit research

This project links with other Constitution Unit work on deliberative processes of decision-making: