Environmental and Social Progress through
Local Democracy, Participatory Budgeting and Community Organising
XR has 3 core demands. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction_Rebellion
The 1st of these demands is for “The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.” As a result of the protests and over 1,000 arrests in London in April 2019, the UK Parliament declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency.
The 2nd demand is for “The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.”
The 3rd demand is for the formation of “A national Citizens’ assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.” This a bold ask and very much needed but there are a lot of unknowns that go with this strategy such as; will the Government commit to supporting such a demand? And if they do; will a national Citizens Assembly be enough to oversee all the decisions necessary to achieve the decarbonisation of our society at every level, country, county & community?
To mitigate against some of the risk involved, there is an opportunity for people to take more personal and collective responsibility at a local level inside our own communities. As concerned citizens we can begin the process of providing essential services required to create more authentic, open and participatory democracy.
In the process of providing citizens oversight for existing local decisions being made, engaging in participatory budgeting and local organising around real projects, we will learn how democracy currently functions, who is who, where the power lies and through People’s Assemblies be able to co-create new models until we have a process that is far more “fit for purpose” as the 3rd demand requests.
Communities have both Community Councils and Ward Councillors but most people are not well acquainted or connected to these people. There are lots of simple but vital roles that volunteers can engage in that will move us in a positive direction i.e. within local democracy, participatory budgeting and community organising.
In South Wales, specifically Cardiff, Swansea and Carmarthenshire, we already have some groundbreaking case studies. Together we can discover and review these, meet the people involved and adapt the models with a view to replicating them in our own communities.
As well as better understanding the human, social and political fabric of our communities, there is also a powerful opportunity to co-create the digital tools that will underpin news ways of working and help bring about the culture change we urgently need.
One example being Pennard Community Council which has become the first Community Council in Wales to engage in participatory with residents on how local budgets are spent and also the first to declare climate and ecological emergency. In Swansea we could set one aim to be for all the 36 communities that make up the Local Authority to do the same which would result in a case study worth of national/global attention and inspire many others around the world to do the same.