Addressing the problem of the Crocodile in the Thames …. Using research to inform democracy and engagement

Our ARVAC conference this year is focussed on research to inform democracy and engagement. ARVAC, is the Association for Research with Voluntary and Community Organisations. The conference presentations are set against the backdrop of ever-hardening austerity and a growing wave of popularism and will  highlight the key issues that all those looking to help progressively renovate the public realm will need to address and negotiate in the months and years ahead. Participatory democracy, engaging public reflection in an ethical and timely way is essential to inform democracy. The rise of popularism, instant opinion and outrange in 140 characters has re-defined media engagement creating instant binary reactions stemming from opinion, sometimes prejudice and often mis-information.

The recent news reported in the Mirror, Daily Mail & The Sun of a crocodile supposedly swimming in the Thames (9th October 2017) is a an amusing example of a more malignant problem. Before you worry about the  Newspaper Article, it turned out to be a pond ornament, but it reminds us of the need for evidence based research. Using participatory research, working with groups at the coal face of welfare reform empowers those with experience to build voice, it builds expert evidence to inform democracy through ethical engagement. The approach of the Poverty Truth Commissions is one example of this work, using the Nothing About Us without Us approach can enliven democracy, empower voice and promote democratic accountability.  Our key note speaker, Nick Mahony is a Researcher, Public Engagement Advisor, Compass Associate and the Administrator (coordinator) of the Raymond Williams Foundation. His expertise is in public engagement and participatory democracy. Nick seeks to combine scholarship, consciousness-raising and practice-based activities where-ever this is possible. He is currently working with Compass and others to address the politics of the contemporary participatory democracy and public engagement, with the aim of supporting the progressive development of this landscape, to further the aims of social justice, equality and democracy.

The ARVAC conference will spend time considering a range of examples through lectures and break out workshops, the event on the 6th February at CAN Mezzanine, 7-14 Great Dover Street, London is free to attend and you can book your place here www.arvac.org.uk/events/

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