The Battle to Engage: Renewing democracy for the next generation

It’s time to re-write the compact between people and politicians, citizen and state. This means genuinely embedding democracy in our current governance structures, and inventing new ones that give more power to the people, and in particular young people. By redistributing influence we tackle entrenched inequality, and help build stronger communities. Our task is complicated by a globalised world, with a churning population, that makes it harder to build cohesive communities – and easier to stir up hate.

Managing diversity and building social cohesion are key challenges of our time. As people feel greater insecurity, witness widespread change, and feel less control over their lives, they become either despairing or angry, and withdraw from the democratic process. These days, democracy-rage drives people insane: the rage against those in charge, the inability to pin them against the wall, and the conviction that politicians just don’t care.

Both politicians and people must change. Modern democracy was founded on the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’. But in the 21st century, representation isn’t enough – and it certainly won’t coax people into voting. Even if it did, voting alone won’t breathe life into our democracy. The lesson we are learning is that there can be no real democracy without effective engagement. And there will be no future for democracy if we don’t persuade young people to engage. It’s not about magic wands and quick fixes – only a genuinely participative democracy will do.