The Democratic Society

November 16, 2019 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
November 13, 2019 alexmengozzi

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) is a non-profit organization headed by Anthony Zacharzewski with offices in Brussels, Manchester, Edinburgh and Pisa. It has two members operating in Italy: Francesca Attolino (Italy Network Lead) and Ivan Tommasi (Community Officer Messina).

Mission and Purpose

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) "works for more and better democracy, where people and institutions have the desire, opportunity and confidence to participate together."[1]

As their mission states, they "work to create opportunities for people to become involved in the decisions that affect their lives and for them to have the skills to do this effectively. [They] support governments, parliaments and any organisation that wants to involve citizens in decision making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation."[1]

Demsoc states that it achieves its goals by:

  • "Promoting a culture of openness and participation in public services.
  • Delivering practical, empowering participatory projects, products and services that enhance and support collaboration between citizens and public services.
  • Advocating for new and innovative methods of participation, the culture change that organisations need to make this happen and the skills citizens need to become active participants.
  • Promoting an evidence-based approach that demonstrates good practice, effective use and clear, strategic benefits.
  • Producing and publishing resources that support learning and effective participation.
  • Providing sectoral and thought leadership around democracy, democratic strengthening and effective participation." [1]

With offices in cities such as Brussels, Pisa, Manchester and Edinburgh, the work of the Democratic Society is done by "a talented and experienced team who are passionate about democracy and finding ways to make it work better."[1]

Origins and Development

Demsoc was developed by Anthony Zacharzewski, who "is an international leader in democratic innovation and government reform. After fourteen years in strategic roles in UK central and local government, he founded the Democratic Society in 2006 to develop new approaches to democratic governance that are better suited to the 21st century.

In growing the organisation from kitchen table to a team of fourteen, he has worked with government at every level from village council to European Commission, and on projects in Serbia, Ireland, France and the UK." [2]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The team features 18 collaborators while the administration board is composed only by president and director.

"As a non-profit organisation working for greater participation and dialogue in democracy, [they] are independent, non-partisan and politically non-aligned."[3] The Democratic Society's project partners include the UK Government Digital Service, the UNDP, the European Commission, Climate KIC / EIT, NHS England, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Scottish Government. They also have received project funding from the King Baudouin Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and Luminate.[3]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Local democracy includes a range of projects, from those based across multiple council-sites, such as the Luminate-funded Public Square project and the Innovation in Democracy Project (IiDP), to working directly with councils including the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the London Borough of Camden. Outside the UK, we ran a citizen-led, year-long ‘Festival of Participation’ in Messina, Italy.

A growing part of its Local Democracy work includes Participatory Budgeting (PB). From 2015/16 they became the digital support partners for the Scottish Government’s programme to encourage the adoption of Participatory Budgeting in Scotland, and are now working on PB in the Netherlands. Their resource highlights include their podcast series, Weighing Digital, An Experts’ Guide, and webinar series about making your own PB process which you can watch on the Demsoc Youtube channel.[3]

Major Projects and Events

  • Civil Society and the European Citizens' Consultations, 2018
  • Populism and Civic Engagement (PaCE), 2019
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: Supporting positive communication between residents and their council (current, starting date unreported)
  • Open Government Network for Europe (current, starting date unreported)
  • Climate KIC - Deep Demonstrations (current, starting date unreported)

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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See Also

Le Agorà di Messina


[1] The Democratic Society. "Who We Are." Retrieved from

[2] The Democratic Society. "Anthony Zacharzewski." Retrieved from

[3] The Democratic Society. "What We Do." Retrieved from

External Links

Official Website: