Civil society has an important role to play in driving change and innovation in democracy for sustainable development.
Non-governmental organisations in the UK are already a hot-bed for innovation in both democracy and sustainable development. But the two sets of concerns have not yet come together.
We wanted to see what could happen when civil society leaders are invited to think about the relevance of their existing work to the goal of equipping democracy for sustainable development. There is a huge body of existing thinking and practice that lies just below the surface of work and advocacy on themes like citizen empowerment, social innovation, localisation, community development, climate change and social justice.
Partnering with environmental justice NGO Capacity Global, we co-convened a meeting of ten leaders from a range of UK-based democracy, community development and environmental organisations in October 2009.
The resulting network offers a space for an exchange of information among peers, drawing out implications on the wider relevance of the ‘democracy and sustainable development’ theme and exploring the potential for future collaboration between NGO leaders.
A background paper on democracy, environmental justice and sustainable development written by Maria Adebowale and Halina Ward is available for download.
Discussions at our first meeting led to a co-authored paper produced in December 2009: Democracy, environmental justice and sustainable development; Issues and approaches for civil society in the UK: an emerging agenda.
Network participant Charles Secrett has also produced a paper outlining a revolutionary pathway to democracy, environmental justice and sustainable development by way of further contribution to our discussions.
Participants in the network are now working to develop a joint project which will offer a focal point for future exchanges as we pursue our shared emerging agenda.
Leaders are invited to participate in the network as individuals. Their organisations include Involve, Community Sector Coalition, Democratic Audit, Capacity Global, Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, Community Development Foundation, the Eden Project, the Environment Council, the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and the Hansard Society.