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All Hands On: deliberative democratic ideals, citizen participation, and the practice of public service

Date of event: September 2, 2020

Online Event (Demio webinar) ENU Policing, Justice, and Society Seminar Series

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Event Briefing

Dr Nick Bland – All Hands On: deliberative democratic ideals, citizen participation, and the practice of public service

Concerns about the state of contemporary democracy and efforts to enhance how citizens participate, have led to what some have described as an increasing ‘deliberative wave’ across the world. New institutional forms and the use of democratic methods such as deliberative mini-publics, have been increasingly drawn on to enable informed public involvement in decision-making. In the UK and Ireland, governments and other public bodies are particularly commissioning mini-publics- citizen assemblies, juries and panels – to engage the public at national and local levels on a wide range of policy issues.

Drawing on practical experience using, and research evaluating, mini-publics in Scotland, Nick considers what can be learnt from these experiments in deliberative democracy; and reflects on the implications of Covid-19 for the place given to on-line engagement. He discusses whether and how these developments might increasingly influence the work of public servants and other professionals. Nick explores these issues by looking particularly at the police as one example; he identifies opportunities to better engage with, and involve, the public in the contemporary challenges that the police face. Finally, Nick looks to the academy in the context of increasing concern with research impact and evidence-based practice. He raises questions about the role of academics in informing the public, and how better to strengthen public engagement with, and understanding of, research evidence.

Dr Nick Bland is Research Adviser to the Local Governance Review at the Scottish Government and a co-director of research evaluating the Citizens Assembly of Scotland. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Applied Sciences, Napier University.

Between 2014-2017, he was co-director of What Works Scotland at the University of Edinburgh, where he was a visiting Professor. Prior to that, he was the policy lead in Scottish Government for the major reform of Scottish policing that led to the establishment of a single service in 2013. He works across the boundaries of research, policy and practice with research interests in citizen participation, local governance, democratic innovation, partnership-working and prevention, with specific application to policing.

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