Grants / Projects we are funding

The Citizens’ Economic Council Project: RSA (The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Grant details


Awarded on:01/02/2016


Area of interest

Systems change

In this two year project a representative group of citizens, working with high levels of public engagement, will explore and debate economic issues and develop a set of recommendations for reform. The overall goals are to open up economic debate to a broader public, demystifying economic ideas and instilling citizens with the confidence to discuss economic policy with a sense of agency and authority.

What is the issue?

The economy is consistently ranked among the top three issues for voters in elections, yet we see a democratic deficit in economic policymaking due to:

  • Lack of economic literacy: a 2014 Social Economy Alliance report shows that fewer than half of the UK population understand how the economy works. Without economic literacy, economic propositions become unchallengeable facts.
  • Lack of transparency: economics is presented as an objective science, in which policy answers can be derived from evidence. There needs to be more transparency around the political choices behind economic policy.
  • Lack of democratic accountability: economics is seen as the preserve of experts and is couched in jargon. The public feels unable to hold politicians to account on economic issues, creating a democratic deficit.
  • Lack of creativity: the range of policy options that are considered politically feasible and therefore enter broader public debate is limited.

What will the project try to achieve?

The democratic debate has stalled around economic policy and created an unchallengeable rhetoric, therefore widening the boundaries of that debate is now vital. The RSA will use its unique public ideas platform for this purpose.

By delivering a democratic, citizen-based, participatory research and learning programme, the project will unleash the potential of citizens to engender system-wide transformation. It will demystify economic concepts and instil citizens with the confidence to discuss economic policy with agency and authority, creating a platform for new, innovative and credible perspectives on economic policy. In this way, the Citizens’ Economic Council project is a vehicle for real world impact on political decision making.

Who might be interested in this project?

This project is of interest to any citizen who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of the UK economy in order to form a view on economic policy or even to engage in deliberative democratic discussions of economic policy ideas.

Civic society groups will also be able to use the content and engagement toolkits to assist their own deliberations on economic policy.

Researchers in participatory democracy should find the project as source of material for their studies and will be welcome to engage with the project for that purpose.

Economists and economic policy makers who are interested in the engagement of the public in policy deliberation or in understanding the differences in economic priorities across different UK geographies and socio-economic groups will also find the project adds to their understanding of these issues.

Finally, politicians should find the Citizens’ Economics Council to be a thought-provoking reflection of citizen’s values, views and priorities that emerge from more active and engaging discussion on economic policy.

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