International Parliament Engagement Network featured in The Parliamentarian

The International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN) was featured in the latest edition of The Parliamentarian – the quarterly journal of Commonwealth Parliaments published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

The journal features articles, news and legislative reports written by Members of Parliament, parliamentary staff and international experts across the Commonwealth about a wide range of global issues.

Published in June 2023, this year’s second issue focused on parliamentary learning from networks across the Commonwealth. Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Dr Sarah Moulds and Dr Elise Uberoi — all key members of IPEN’s Executive Team — were invited to share how the International Parliament Engagement Network offers collegiality and practical support for parliamentary staff.

The article gives an in-depth overview of IPEN, starting with how and why it was created in 2020 as a collaboration between the Centre for Democratic Politics at the University of Leeds and the UK House of Commons Service:

“The growing impetus to connect the people with their Parliaments has generated a flurry of activity and investment in the last few years, both inside and outside of parliamentary settings. Elected Members of Parliament, senior parliamentary staff, community organisations and commentators are all hungry to learn more about what works and why.

“This appetite for evidence-based information about parliamentary public engagement and the need for a safe forum for sharing best practice gave rise to the establishment of the International Parliament Engagement Network (known as ‘IPEN’) and has fuelled its rapid expansion and impact ever since.”

The network now has 300 members from over 50 countries across the world, combining academics, parliamentary officials and representatives of civil society organisations. The article explains how “IPEN provides a virtual network to facilitate research and develop evidence-based resources for parliamentary staff seeking to engage the public with Parliaments’ work”, noting that this is “an area of increased public and academic interest in the context of a decline in trust and a rise in populism and political disengagement.”

Leston-Bandeira, Moulds and Uberoi explore some of the ways parliaments deliver public engagement activities, and highlight some examples from across the globe. It is acknowledged how many do so with only small budgets and teams who may be new to this emerging area, and how this generates a need for lesson learning and sharing resources.

“This is where the International Parliament Engagement Network comes in. IPEN aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration between officials, civil society representatives and academics from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, to enhance research and practice in parliamentary public engagement.

“IPEN connects its members through the sharing of research and reports, facilitating introductions, discussions and exchanges via MS Teams and hosting professional development seminars online.”

A key focus of the article is on promoting the activities of the network – from pioneering conferences, seminars (some co-hosted with the Inter-Parliamentary Union), workshops, bespoke resources such as a public engagement toolkit and online ‘escape-room’ (Terra Nova), and an online community hosted on MS Teams for further engagement between members.

Drawing of three people holding a sign with the words public engagement toolkit

The article ends with a call for new members to the network:

Membership is open to parliamentary officials from all jurisdictions who are invited to join as individuals (with or without associated membership from their respective institution), in addition to academics and third sector organisations working in the area of public engagement with Parliaments.

“These unique features of IPEN mean that it offers both formal and informal opportunities for people to connect, removing barriers sometimes associated with institutional hierarchy and enabling empowering, supportive professional relationships to form between scholars and practitioners from around the world.”

The Parliamentarian (2023, Volume 104, Issue 2) can be downloaded here from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association website. You will find the article — International Parliament Engagement Network offers collegiality for members and practical support for Parliaments — on page 142.

A shorter version of the article is also available here on ISSU.

Find out how to join the International Parliament Engagement Network.

About the authors

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira is Chair of IPEN and a Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds. She has conducted research on Parliaments for nearly 30 years. Her research focuses on the relationship between Parliament and citizens, particularly public and digital engagement.

Dr Sarah Moulds is a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia and an Executive member of IPEN. She is the editor of the Australasian Parliamentary Review and her most recent book ‘Committees of Influence’ explores the important role that Parliamentary Committees play in rights protection in Australia.

Dr Elise Uberoi is a statistics researcher in the UK Parliament and Deputy Chair of IPEN. She works on statistics on elections and the UK Parliament, including public engagement.

Article published 31 August 2023