IWA to lead crowd-sourced constitutional convention

Lee Waters explains why the IWA plans to run its own constitutional convention for Wales.

This is my daughter.  What kind of Wales is she going to inherit?

That’s the question that motivates me in the debate about our constitution and the future shape of the UK.  All too often the debates are arid, jargon- dominated conversations amongst the political elites that focus on the mechanics and not the bigger picture.  But one of the many lessons of the Scottish referendum campaign is the need to put people at the centre.

And that’s what the Institute of Welsh Affairs wants to do. Rather than wait for a UK Government to set-up a Constitutional Convention to debate the future shape of the UK, Wales needs to take the initiative. The IWA plans to set up a ‘crowd-sourced’ Constitutional Convention to discuss what Wales should ask for in this debate.

Drawing on the example of the Icelandic experience in citizen involvement, as well as the Scottish Constitutional Convention that mobilised support for a Parliament in the 80s & 90s, and the more recent experience in Ireland, the Institute of Welsh Affairs intends to bring a group of civil society figures and organisations together in the coming weeks to plan a digitally-led Constitutional Convention.

The IWA has already trialled this approach on a smaller scale to form some of our evidence to the Silk Commission.  We’ve piloted an approach using the web to ‘crowd-source’ policy development by bringing people together to debate policy changes. We gathered experts from around the country online over a 6 week period at the end of last year to discuss the practicalities involved in devolving powers over policing and justice.  We plan to build on that to generate a wide ranging conversation with people across Wales, and beyond, about creating a stable constitutional settlement.

We don’t have a fully worked out model, we want to develop this approach as we go along with your input. We want to follow the example of Scotland in the 1980s following the wake of the 1979 referendum where the trade unions, churches and voluntary organisations came together to fashion a way forward.  Our first step is to gather some of the key stakeholders together to design a citizen focused on-line Constitutional Convention.

David Cameron has set-out a timetable for plotting initial proposals for Scotland and England by January, with Parliament taking action after next May’s General Election. We want to make sure Wales’ voice isn’t lost in this process. And crucially that it’s a conversation that goes beyond the political classes.

We need help to make this work. We need you to take part in the debate, but to get there we need your help to get it up and running. We have launched a crowd-funding initiative to enable us to get this exciting project off the ground. Please help us make sure Wales’ voice is heard.


Lee Waters is Director of the IWA.

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