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Where’s the New Thinking About Democracy? Panel Discussion

Festival of Ideas
Protect and extend democracy promotional image by Willem Hampson

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Our panel looks at the new ideas from around the world on how to renew democracy.

In the last in-person Festival of Ideas  event before the pandemic, Margaret Heffernan (author of Uncharted: How to Map the Future) said that one of the great tragedies of the last 50 years was our failure to defend and extend democracy. Renewing democracy, she added, is a ‘cathedral project’ – one that takes generations to complete.

Who has the new ideas and how can they be implemented? Claudia Chwalisz (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD) looks at innovative citizen participation and deliberative, collaborative governance. Peter Geoghegan (author of the bestselling Democracy for Sale) examines how money, vested interests and digital skullduggery are eroding trust in democracy and what we can do to overcome this. Immy Kaur (Founder and Director of CIVIC SQUARE) looks at the role of citizens in radical systemic change, and how we can create a more democratic, distributed, open-source social and civic infrastructure.

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Claudia Chwalisz

Claudia Chwalisz leads the OECD’s work on innovative citizen participation and edits the OECD’s online digest, Participo. She is a member of the Democracy R&D Network, contributes to Carnegie Europe’s Reshaping European Democracy Project and mentored the 2019 Social Design masters students at the Design Academy Eindhoven for a series of workshops about Designing Democracy 2050. In December 2019, she was a Distinguished International Visitor at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, University of Canberra. She is the author of The People’s Verdict: Adding Informed Citizen Voices to Public Decision-making.

Peter Geoghegan

Peter Geoghegan is a writer, broadcaster and investigations editor at the award-winning news website openDemocracy. He led openDemocracy‘s investigations into dark money in British politics that were nominated for a 2019 British Journalism award and the Paul Foot award. His most recent book is Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics. His previous book, The People’s Referendum, was nominated for the Saltire First Book Award. He is co-founder and current chair of Scottish investigative website the Ferret and edits Political Insight magazine.


Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan produced programmes for the BBC for 13 years. She then moved to the US where she spearheaded multimedia productions for Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard&Poors. She was Chief Executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and then iCast Corporation. Her third book, Willful Blindness was named one of the most important business books of the decade by the Financial Times. In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for A Bigger Prize. Her TED talks have been seen by over nine million people and in 2015 TED published Beyond Measure. She is Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co, mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organisations. Her most recent book, Uncharted: How to Map the Future, was published in 2020.

Immy Kaur

Immy Kaur is co-founder and director of CIVIC SQUARE, a public square, neighbourhood lab, and creative and participatory platform focused on regenerative civic and social infrastructure within neighbourhoods. She is also an active member of Project 00, the Resourcing Racial Justice Coalition, and the National Lottery Community Fund Advisory Fund. She is part of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab Advisory Team and an Inclusive Economy Partnership Board Champion. She was a founding director of Impact Hub Birmingham (2015-2019) which in 2018 was named a NESTA New Radical. In 2020, she was awarded a prestigious Ashoka Fellowship.


Democracy and Freedom of Expression

This event is part of our 2021 series on democracy and freedom of expression. We’re committed to looking at solutions to the great challenges that face us – what individuals, leaders, mayors, councils, governments, cities, communities, nations and others can do to support, strengthen and extend democracy and freedom of expression.

The series includes: programmes on the future of democracy, May elections, the monarchy, constitutions, English devolution, House of Lords reform, votes at 16; work exploring freedom of expression through the year; and a focus on democracy and cities in Festival of the Future City (20-21 October).

Our project partners include English PEN, Prospect Magazine, the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath and the Observer. More events will be launched soon. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #FOIDemocracy and #CommonCurrency

Booking Information

It’s important to us that ideas and debate are affordable to everyone. It’s also important that our commentators, artists, writers, poets and thinkers are paid. This is a Pay What You Can event. You are invited to choose your own contribution to the event. A free option is available. All proceeds go towards supporting our speakers and sustaining Bristol Ideas.

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Illustration by Willem Hampson

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