Help shape our Constitutional Convention

IWA Director Lee Waters invites you to help shape the design of the Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention

On January 26th we are launching a Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention on the future of Wales, and the UK

Just as we are ‘crowd sourcing’ the funding to try and help us hold this innovative experiment in deliberative democracy, we are also ‘crowd sourcing’ the design of the debate.  Over the coming days we will be posting the working drafts of our plans for each of the stages of the eight-week project for you to shape.

Our intention over the two months of the project is to shadow the discussion driving the debate in Scotland and England, to ensure that Wales is not left out. We’ll take the main themes of the Smith Commission report – powers over the economy and Welfare State – and the theme of the UK Government’s Cabinet committee under William Hague on devolution to England and the rest of the UK.

We have three objectives:  to ensure that Wales is not left out of the debate about the future of the UK; to ensure that the debate reaches beyond the political elites; and to try and discern a consensus which can influence the formation of the party manifestos for the General Election and next year’s Assembly election.

We are working with a specialist digital democracy company called Delib to design a website to host the Constitutional Convention. Learning from our pilot project we know that a debate on a website is not enough, there needs to be parallel debates and activities. The debate will not be confined to the site but will also be facilitated by our partners: the UK Changing Union project,  NUS Wales, Wales TUC, Federation of Small Businesses Cymru, Electoral Reform Society Cymru, Community Housing Cymru and Media Wales.

And of course we’ll be heavily using social media – incidentally, what should our hashtag be: #IWAConvention or #WeThePeople ?

We’re breaking down the eight weeks into five stages to cover the following themes:

  1. What is the UK for? If there’s to be a Union what should it do?
  2.  How do we create a more prosperous Wales? (The economy)
  3. How do we make Wales a fairer country? (The Welfare State)
  4. What is the future of the UK?
  5. What is Wales for?

The first and final stage will last a week each, while the other stages will span a two week period.  Each stage will offer information on the context of the debate and pose open questions, as well as questions which offer binary choices so that we can measure people’s reactions to the debate.

We have brought together small expert groups to help us generate the questions and now we want to broaden the input to give anyone the chance to shape the content*.  We’ll also be adjusting our plans as the project progresses in the light of experience.  We fully expect to make mistakes and for the project to be imperfect, but we hope it will open up discussion and engage people in a debate about the future direction of our country.

The initial phase aims to go back to first principles and ask what the purpose of an United Kingdom is.  Much of the debate since the Scottish referendum has been about what further powers should be devolved, rather than asking what the overall objective is. If there is to be a Union (and there are people who clearly feel there shouldn’t be) what is its purpose?

Our plans for our first phase are perhaps the least well developed (we’re organising this complex project at break-neck speed with a tiny budget and very little capacity), so we’d like your input.

PHASE 1- What is the UK for?

1 What is the UK for? If there’s to be a Union what should it do?

Key themes*:

-Foreign Policy/ Defence & Security

– Economy / Redistribution

– Broadcasting

– Shared identity and history

– Immigration

 *We will offer some context for each of these with a mix of approaches including podcasts, fact sheets and opinion pieces on Click on Wales

2 What policy areas are best carried out at a UK level?

3 What policy areas are best carried out at a Welsh level?

In the final section of this phase we will reflect back some of the issues which have emerged and pose them as binary questions so that we can measure opinion. For example, is a single broadcasting regime essential for the future of the UK?

We’d value your input to try and shape this attempt at engaging the public in a debate about our country’s future.  Also if you are able to make a financial contribution to help us reach the potential of this initiative please donate here.

[* The expert group we consulted on the design of the first and fourth stage included Prof Laura McAllister, Prof Richard Wyn Jones,  Steve Brooks,  Emyr Lewis, Lee Waters, Jess Blair, Paul Silk, David Stevens, and Geraint Talfan Davies]

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