An evaluation of DCMS’ Innovation in Democracy Programme with recommendations for Local Authorities on how to get as much benefit as possible from Citizens’ Assemblies.

Film produced by Renaisi partners, Close Up Research.

The Innovation in Democracy programme involved the delivery of Citizens’ Assemblies in three places in England, with support from Involve, The Democratic Society, mySociety and the RSA, as well as up to £60,000 to cover the costs of implementing the Area Democracy Forums and online engagement.

This report brings together the findings of Renaisi’s evaluation of the Innovation in Democracy Programme commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHLG).

Renaisi was selected as the evaluator because of expertise in evaluating place-based programmes such as Place Based Social Action and Power to Change’s Empowering Places. The framework for the evaluation was shaped by an interest in two distinct stakeholder groups:

  • Residents and stakeholders in the issue
  • Local government and decision-makers about the issue

Having been embedded in some of the most diverse and dynamic communities in East and South London for over 20 years, Renaisi has a deep and unique insight into the issues faced by communities as well as experience of working with local government on neighbourhood regeneration programmes such as the EC1 New Deal for Communities.

From the perspective of both groups, we evaluated:

  1. The quality and implementation of the process
  2. The impact and learning from the Assembly

Alongside that simple framework, we explored six evaluative areas from the perspective of the two stakeholder groups. The evaluation also captured learning from across the breadth of the programme related to the challenges and solutions to holding a Citizens’ Assembly in local government.

Likely drivers of success were identified as:

  • The drive, motivation and upskilling of the local authority staff members involved, supported by new networks of contacts.
  • The fact that Citizens’ Assemblies have been recognised as a genuine, high-quality process by participants and decision-makers.

While it is too early to fully evaluate the impact of the Citizens’ Assemblies in each place, the evaluation includes six recommendations for Local Authorities to ensure as much benefit as possible from using Citizens’ Assemblies in their areas.

As part of DCMS and MHCLG commitment to sharing learning from the programme they produced a suite of resources for local authorities and others who are interested in new forms of citizen participation and practical use of deliberative democracy:

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO