Citizen-initiated legislation: The Clean Air Act in Thailand

Silhouette of trees against a background of smoke from chimneys and sunset sky.

17 September 2024

This Public Engagement Hub seminar will focus on citizen-initiated legislation in Thailand.

Thailand has a provision for civil society organisations (CSOs) to submit legislative proposals to the House of Representatives if they gather a minimum of 10,000 signatures from eligible voters. This is this provision that was used to put forward a bill to address air pollution, known as the Clean Air Act, almost unanimously accepted by the House of Representatives in January 2024.

Following this, a 39-member ad hoc committee was set up to review the seven drafts submitted, including the civil society draft, and consolidate them into a single, cohesive bill that will then be presented to Senate early 2025.

Join us for a conversation that explores a very concrete example of public engagement through the citizen initiative mechanism designed to allow public participation in the legislative process.

This event will take place on Zoom and is open to anyone with an interest in public engagement with parliaments.

The seminar will be presented in English. Translation will be available to/from French.

Find out more and register here.

About the Public Engagement Hub seminar series

This seminar is jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN). The event is part of a series of webinars hosted by the Public Engagement Hub.

Photo by Pixabay. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

Survey launched to map public engagement with parliaments from around the world

Hands, World, Map

Practitioners who work on matters directly relevant to the theme of public engagement and parliament are invited to take part in a new survey to create an accessible global map of public engagement practice.

The survey is part of a project titled ‘Mapping public engagement in parliaments across the world’ which is designed to help us understand how different parliaments engage with their citizens.

The project has been developed as a Parliamentary Academic Fellowship through the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), together with the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN).


Coordinating the survey is Dr Laura Sudulich, a Parliamentary Academic Fellow based at the University of Essex. Laura said:

“The aim of this project is to show how parliaments engage with their citizens across the world, through the creation of a map which will be hosted on the IPEN website.

“The survey is specifically aimed at officials who work for parliaments, the Civil Service, and those working for third sector organisations that help parliaments deliver public engagement activities.

“The survey asks a range of questions to determine the wide-ranging approaches parliaments use with regard to public engagement. The rich information gathered through the survey will be collated to create summaries which will be accessed via an interactive map by each country’s parliament or legislature.”

Map of the world

Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds and Chair of IPEN, said:

“Following the success of the global map of parliamentary mechanisms for accessing academic research, we are excited to be embarking on this new project with the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).

“This new map will enable us to celebrate the multiple ways parliaments from across the world engage with the public.

“To make this possible, we need the input and insights of the dedicated staff who plan and deliver public engagement initiatives and activities within their own parliaments.

“If you work directly to deliver public engagement activities for parliaments then we invite you to contribute to the map by giving some of your time to complete the survey.”

Take part in the survey

The ‘Mapping public engagement in parliaments across the world’ survey will run from July 2024, with a view to creating the map by the spring of 2025.

Find out about the survey and how to contribute to the global map of public engagement in parliaments.

Images

1. Image by stokpic from Pixabay.
2. Photo by Leeloo The First. Source: Pexels.
3. Screenshot of global map of parliamentary mechanisms for accessing academic research (developed by Dr Vicky Ward and Professor Mark Monaghan for a POST Fellowship and hosted on IPEN website).

Embedding public engagement into parliamentary practice – the case of Kenya

Parliament of Kenya, The Senate Public Entrance.

17 July 2024

This Public Engagement Hub seminar will focus on Kenya’s bicameral parliament to lead a reflection on how to institutionalise public engagement practices.

Speaker: Dr Brenda Ogembo, Principal Clerk Assistant and the Deputy Head of the Senate Liaison Office at the Parliament of Kenya

Chair: Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, University of Leeds and Chair of IPEN

Kenya’s constitution sets a number of provisions about public engagement expectations. The seminar – which will primarily focus on the Senate – will share some of its practices in implementing these constitutional provisions while identifying some of the associated challenges.

This event will take place on Zoom and is open to anyone with an interest in public engagement with parliaments.

The seminar will be presented in English. Translation will be available from/to French.

Find out more and register here.

About the Public Engagement Hub seminar series

This seminar is jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN). The event is part of a series of webinars hosted by the Public Engagement Hub.

Image: Parliament of Kenya, The Senate Public Entrance. Courtesy of the Parliament of Kenya.

Demokratikum – Experience Parliament: an experience-oriented approach to strengthen public engagement

The Forum in the Austrian Parliament's Demokratikum.

26 June 2024

Speakers: Matthias Keppel, Head of the Demokratikum – Experience Parliament, Parliament of Austria; Barbara Blümel, Head of the Department Services for Citizens, Parliament of Austria

Chair: Cristina Leston-Bandeira (University of Leeds and Chair of IPEN)

This IPEN seminar will explore how, as part of the renovation of its building, the Parliament of Austria adopted a highly informative and experience-orientated approach to create an interactive and welcoming new space.

This new space, the Demokratikum – situated at the parliament’s entrance – both welcomes and integrates visitors in the parliament. The seminar will outline the process behind this development and present its core characteristics.

This online seminar will take place in MS Teams and is open to all members of the International Parliament Engagement Network.

Find out more about the network.

Image

The Forum in the Austrian Parliament’s Demokratikum. Copyright: Parlamentsdirektion/Johannes Zinner.

Contributing to evidence-informed decision-making: the Oficina C at the Spanish Congress

Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid, España

11 June 2024

Presented in Spanish, this seminar is open to IPEN members only.

Speaker: Ana Elorza (Coordinadora FECYT, Oficina C, Congreso de los Diputados, España)

Chair: Eva Campos-Domínguez (Universidad de Valladolid, España)

This IPEN seminar presents the experience of Science and Technology Office, Congress of Deputies (Spain), which provides the parliament with scientific evidence on topics of interest and facilitates dialogue between the scientific community and Members of Parliament.

Ana Elorza will explain the objectives and working method of Science and Technology Office, which is based on scientific evidence – extracted from articles published in scientific journals, interviews with researchers, scientists, and experts, etc. – contextualised, analysed, and summarised in the C Reports through a standardised process (the C Method). The C-Reports are available to all Members of Parliament and the public.  Science and Technology Office emerged from the citizens’ initiative ‘Science in Parliament’ (CeeP), with the close collaboration of FECYT and the COTEC Foundation and the support of the vast majority of Spanish scientific institutions.

IPEN members can also find the details in Spanish in our MS Teams space

Image: Congreso de los Diputados (Madrid, España). Photo by Luis Javier Modino Martínez. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Connecting the superpowers of ‘digital natives’ with parliament

Image to illustrate a seminar

21 May 2024

This Public Engagement Hub webinar is jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), IPEN and INTER PARES

Date and time: Tuesday 21 May (09:00-10:30 GMT+1 / UK time; 10:00-11:30 CEST)

Moderator: Lotte Geunis, INTER PARES

Speakers: Pradip Kahtiwada, Executive Director, Youth Innovation Lab, Nepal; Hanah Lahe, Member of the Riigikogu, Estonia; Andres Lomp, Community Engagement Manager, Parliament of Victoria, Australia; Nerima Wako, Executive Director, SIASA Place, Kenya 
 
Bringing together the perspectives of parliaments and young people, this roundtable considers opportunities and challenges for connecting parliament with ‘digital natives’ born or brought up during the age of digital technology. How can digital natives engage parliaments in efforts towards transparency, accountability and participation? How can parliaments draw upon the skills and know-how of young people to strengthen their practices? 

Join us for a conversation that explores what digital natives have to offer to parliaments and vice versa, how this complements parliaments’ search for efficiency and independence, and what this could look like in practice.

This event will take place on Zoom and is open to anyone with an interest in public engagement with parliaments.

This event will be presented in English. Translation will be available from/to French.

Find out more and register here.

About the Public Engagement Hub seminar series

The event is part of a series of webinars hosted by the Public Engagement Hub, jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN).

Engaging the teaching community – innovations in professional learning approaches

Groups of people sitting round tables

15 May 2024

Speakers: Dr Narelle Wood (Senior Education Advisor, Community Engagement, Parliament of Victoria); Natalie Badcock (Community Education & Engagement Manager, Parliament of South Australia)

Chair: Dr Sarah Moulds (University of South Australia and Deputy Chair of IPEN)

This IPEN seminar will explore approaches used by the legislatures of South Australia and Victoria (Australia) to promote more meaningful engagement from teachers in civics, democracy and citizenship teaching.

Narelle Wood will outline how the Parliament of Victoria has partnered with Swinburne University of Technology to use co-design principles in civics and citizenship professional development workshops with teachers. Narelle will share some of the co-design activities, some of the benefits and key learnings from using co-design, and how this work has influenced the education strategy moving forward.

Natalie Badcock will present on contemporary practices around finding and engaging teachers with professional learning in South Australia, and the flow on effect the training has on perceptions of the Parliament. Natalie will also take attendees through a preview of the Parliament’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Teaching Civics & Citizenship’ seminar, which involves interactive elements and stepping into the shoes of a teacher.

This online seminar will take place in MS Teams and is open to all members of the International Parliament Engagement Network.

Find out more about the network.

Image

Teachers from the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership Teaching Excellence Program participating in a workshop at Parliament Victoria on excursions in the Humanities. Photo courtesy of Parliament of Victoria.

Breaking barriers to engagement with parliaments

Pink, black and white design with words 'Breaking barriers to engagement with parliaments' and 'research findings'

24 April 2024

Speakers: Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira (School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds and Chair of IPEN); Dr Blagovesta Tacheva (School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds)

Chair: Matt Ringer, Director of Participation, UK House of Commons

This IPEN seminar will discuss barriers that people from seldom heard groups (e.g. low socio-economic backgrounds, ethnic minorities) face to engage with parliament and the type of approaches that parliaments may develop to enhance engagement from these groups.

It will draw on research undertaken in the UK which included focus groups with people from seldom heard groups and interviews with community organisations representatives, as well as parliamentary officials.

Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Blagovesta Tacheva will show the importance of thinking about participation through a holistic approach which values the scaffolding of participatory activities with appropriate education and information resources.

This online seminar is open to all members of the International Parliament Engagement Network.

Find out more about the network.

Select Committee pilots on participatory democracy at the UK Parliament

Engagement event held by Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Belfast

In this blog post, Chris Shaw (Clerk of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK House of Commons) explores three pilot projects on participatory democracy carried out by Select Committees in the UK House of Commons and discusses the ways in which deliberative engagement can enhance committee scrutiny activities.

Introduction

Committees in the UK House of Commons recently completed trials of public engagement events to test the value of participation by citizens in their work. All three pilot projects produced some really positive feedback and data on the potential for deliberative methods to make a valuable contribution to the scrutiny of policy in Parliament.

Background

For several years, select committees in the House of Commons (which do scrutiny rather than legislation) have been developing an appetite for public engagement in their work, whether it be through visits, round tables, or online surveys and forums.

These have added depth and colour to the traditional, more formal, processes of examining written submissions and holding public hearings. They have also sponsored more ambitious deliberative exercises: citizens’ assemblies on health and social care in 2018 and on climate change (the path to net zero) in 2020.

Speech bubbles on window

The pilots

In 2023, three select committees took advantage of offers from established providers (Involve and IDEA, Ohio State University) to run deliberative events in support of forthcoming committee inquiries.

• The Justice Committee held a deliberative engagement exercise to support its inquiry into public opinion and understanding of sentencing. This comprised 25 people, broadly representative of the population, who met for three half-days.

• The Home Affairs Committee held an online town hall event, for 1,300 people, in support of its inquiry into policing priorities. It was attended by committee members and a Police and Crime Commissioner.

• The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee held an online town hall event, for 270 people, in support of its inquiry into the effectiveness of the institutions of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. It was attended by committee members from different political parties. It complemented this with an in-person engagement event in Belfast.

In each case, participants completed surveys about their views before and after the engagement event or, in the case of the Justice Committee, were asked about the extent to which their participation had changed their views.

Rationale

Understanding public attitudes – and the reasons behind them – was crucial to all three inquiries. The committees were keen to reach out beyond the interest groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – who regularly submit evidence to inquiries – to converse with a representative sample of the population, most of whom would not ordinarily stop and consider policy challenges which may be complex, but nonetheless affect them directly.

In the case of the Northern Ireland Affairs and the Justice committees, they wanted to secure quantitative and qualitative data to supplement written evidence and also, in Northern Ireland, in-person community engagement. The Home Affairs Committee wanted to use a method which would allow ordinary people to consider the pros and cons of prioritising different areas of policing over others.

The Chair of each Committee participated in order to demonstrate political buy-in and, in the case of the Home Affairs Committee, an elected Police and Crime Commissioner led the online discussion by setting out some of the difficult decisions about prioritisation that he faced every day.

Listening in to the discussions, I was struck by the quality of the questions asked by the public and the consensual way in which the participating politicians engaged with the process and participants. This may have come as a shock to those whose engagement with politics was limited to catching occasional glimpses of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Online meeting showing laptop and mug

Results and impact

All three committees involved in the pilots found these deliberative activities very useful to their work. Two of them went on to make recommendations in their reports for further use of deliberative methods by the Government for policy making.

So what was the added value that these exercises provided?

In part, they served to provide reinforcement – additional validation – to the messages from known contributors with established views. But at times they also provided new insights directly from the public.

For example, the Justice Committee dialogue revealed strong support for an additional, new priority to be used for sentencing: the need to provide justice for the victims of crime. The Committee’s report recommended that the Ministry of Justice should conduct “regular, structured, deliberative engagement exercises with members of the public as part of policy development process” and that the Sentencing Council too should consider taking a similar approach in revising its Sentencing Guidelines.

In response to the report, the Government agreed that “public opinion absolutely plays a pivotal role in shaping sentencing policy” and the Sentencing Council agreed to “consider” whether structured deliberative engagement exercises like this one may benefit its ongoing work on encouraging a greater range of responses to public consultations. So, a positive, if non-committal response, which reflects the absence of a fully developed Government view on the use of deliberative methods in policy making.

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee public engagement event held in Belfast

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s online town hall and in-person engagement event produced several insights that probably would not have surfaced through the normal processes of gathering information. There was overwhelming enthusiasm for a strong voice being given in the design of any new political institutions to those not identifying with one of the two main communities.

The Committee found “clear, compelling evidence that much of the public are more open to change than the political class”. For example, the requirement for cross community support for any changes was identified as a barrier to reform which should be addressed. The non-partisan and informed nature of the deliberative approach was evidently very influential on the Committee: it concluded that “Citizens’ assemblies have the potential to empower people to find solutions and reach across deep divides in a way which politicians—except perhaps in the case of events leading up to Good Friday 1998—rarely can”.

It recommended that the Government establishes a Northern Ireland Citizens’ Assembly to consider institutional reform and to feed into a wider review. Since the Committee reported, the Northern Ireland Executive has been re-established and the Government has indicated that public engagement is a matter for the Executive.

Participants in the process were certainly enthused: some 95% of them said that deliberative events were valuable for democracy and should be a more regular part of the political process.

Engagement event held by Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Belfast

Finally, the Home Affairs Committee town hall on policy provided a useful and unique insight into how the public viewed the difficulties involved in balancing competing priorities in an environment of constrained resources. The summary of the views provided after the discussion indicated a strong consensus around some issues (for example, improved vetting of and training for police officers; ethnic minorities being treated worse by police) and less consensus on others (support for victims of crime).

The impact and value of the dialogue was demonstrated by the fact that 80% of participants said that they had changed their views as a result of their engagement in the town hall. This was supported by the evaluation data which indicated a substantial increase in the participants’ trust in the committees as a result of their involvement, although the increase in respect of Parliament as a whole was marginal.

The impact on MPs is perhaps harder to discern. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they valued the opportunity for more in-depth discussion with the public. The strength of feeling amongst participants in the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee town hall on the failings of the current political arrangements and the willingness to think across community lines may have been a surprise to some MPs more used to engaging with people on a party political basis.

What next?

Looking ahead, these pilots have proved to committee MPs and to participants that deliberative engagement can add to the depth and breadth of committee scrutiny activities. They contribute to an ever-increasing portfolio of public engagement activities being undertaken by committees.

The challenge is now to further establish these types of activities in the toolbox of scrutiny that committees have at their disposal and, in the new Parliament, to increase trust in them amongst public, politicians and government alike.

About the author

Chris Shaw is Clerk of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the House of Commons, UK Parliament, and was the lead official on the establishment of Climate Assembly UK. Chris is a member of the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN) Executive Team.

Images

1, 4 & 5: Public engagement event held by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Belfast. Credit: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock.
2: Speech bubbles on window. Image courtesy of Involve.
3: Online meeting. Image courtesy of Involve.

Article published: 19 March 2024

IPEN Showcase: Postgraduate Research from Australia and the UK

Drawing of lightbulb and speech bubbles on a blue background

20 March 2024

For our inaugural IPEN Showcase, we have five speakers who will each speak for five minutes using five presentation slides.

We are delighted to welcome IPEN members Anneke, Emma, Lauren, Matt and Nathaniel – all PhD students from the UK and Australia – who will be giving us an insight into their current research on a range of topics related to parliamentary public engagement:

‘It’s just a respect thing’: Identifying practical ways for the Australian parliament to recognise and value Indigenous languages and their speakers
Anneke Myers, PhD candidate, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, College of Arts & Social Sciences, Australian National University

Press A to Vote: Exploring political engagement in online roleplaying games to identify real-world opportunities
Emma Brewis, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

Who speaks and who listens? The ‘Democratic Ecology’ of Parliamentary E-petitions
Lauren Martin, University of Sheffield

Parliamentary public engagement and democratic representation in Australia: a critical realist analysis
Matt Ryan, University of South Australia

Shifting Scrutiny Styles: The Increased Presence of House of Lords Select Committees
Nathaniel Sablan, University of Sheffield

Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for all participants to ask questions of the speakers and to have a wider discussion of the research themes.

The IPEN Showcase will be chaired by Cristina Leston Bandeira (University of Leeds and Chair of IPEN) and Elise Uberoi (House of Commons Library and Deputy Chair of IPEN).

This online event is open to all members of the International Parliament Engagement Network.

Find out more about the network.