What is Democracy Matters?
Democracy Matters is an informal alliance of over 30 civil society organisations and community education providers with an extensive network of local groups in all parts of the UK, particularly England, and some links to organisations in the EU and beyond.
We promote learning for democracy, citizenship, participation and practical politics, particularly among people who have least power in society.
Why do we need Democracy Matters?
Democracy Matters was set up in 2009 by organisations which provide education for citizenship, campaigning and practical politics, following nine regional road shows organised by People Can with NCVO and others (see Campaigning is OK! ). The aims and founding document is in Annex 3.
Politics is about making rules and setting priorities for society. If people don’t take part, someone else makes the rules for them and they are likely to lose out as a result. Large charities and companies can employ campaigners and lobbyists to make their case, but most people do not know what to do about issues that concern them.
Many organisations help people to take part in politics and learn how to be effective as citizens at different levels, from local community action to international development, but they reach relatively few people. We aim to bring these organisations together to make it possible to give everyone the opportunity to learn how to take part in making rules and setting priorities for society if they want.
Who runs Democracy Matters?
It is run entirely by volunteers. Titus Alexander, Director of Policy at People Can is the convener, assisted by up to 15 other volunteers recruited through the w4mp website. It has an informal steering group of representatives from the Education Centres Association, NIACE, Public Policy, Unlock Democracy, Sheila McKechnie Foundation, Community Matters and WEA, with encouragement from the Coop College, Involve, FCDL, NAVCA and others.
What has Democracy Matters achieved so far?
Democracy Matters has influenced the current government to see the benefits of active citizenship and campaigning, meeting with Ministers such as Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, Nick Hurd (all of Cabinet Office) and John Hayes (Minister for Skills) and getting public support from David Cameron and over 270 candidates before the election.
We recently held a forum with David Blunkett MP, Baroness Sharp (LibDem) and Cllor Robert Light (Conservative), Deputy Chair of the LGA, chaired by David Hughes CEO of NIACE, on why adult education should lead on learning for local democracy.
We responded to the Government on a register of lobbyists and lobbied the Charity Commission for recognition of the promotion of democracy as a charitable objective.