Humanity and the Planet

Citizen Democracy is essential for tackling the urgent problems of the planet.

Growing Citizen Democracy: Humanity and the Planet

Author: Helena Kettleborough

Citizen Democracy is a dynamic form of democracy in which people can share power equitably and engage on an informed and inclusive basis in cooperative problem-solving. This way of understanding how democracy should function is important for many reasons. It puts emphasis on helping people influence and shape public services. It seeks to empower citizens to demand that local institutions such as universities, art galleries and other local resources serve communities better. 

Citizen Democracy plays a key part in challenging and stopping the over-development of urban areas, destroying old neighbourhoods and trees. It is crucial in detecting what is true and what is false in politics, learning to live with difference and being part of the fight against the rise of the far right and deceptive populism. Globally Citizen Democracy is part of the road map to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the creation of a fair and just future for all, leaving no-one behind.

Yet Citizen Democracy also goes beyond the affairs of the human inhabitants of planet Earth. It is important to save biodiversity in local areas and in biodiversity hot spots around the world, honouring indigenous communities. Citizen Democracy is an essential part of the work to keep our planet habitable in the Anthropocene. It is essential as we adapt to the extremes of our climate and welcome the climate refugees from around the world. The quickening pace of global warming requires the active and democratic participation of all citizens in order to make the huge changes necessary to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees relative to pre-industrial levels. By this means, rather than feeling powerless in the face of change, we can develop a sense of agency that individually and together we can make a difference and create a better world. Now in the mid-2020s, the quickening pace of global warming, resulting in unprecedented extremes in our weather and shocks to our living conditions, coupled with the global rise of far-right populism, and misinformation on social media, means that it is very urgent to consider how we can grow Citizen Democracy.

From the 1960s until 2011 resources were allocated by government, local government and philanthropic funders for programmes which, under other names, contributed to building citizen democracy.1 Over the years, initiatives such as (in England) the Urban Programme, the Single Regeneration Budget Programme, Sure Start, Neighbourhood Warden Schemes, Regional Centres for Excellence and the Together We Can and Take Part initiatives all provided resources for training and learning in communities and support for a wide range of community development and community empowerment initiatives. These have all been cut draconically since 2011.

Local Authorities are still a key proponent in the much-needed work to create a vibrant and healthy democracy and many are trying in near impossible circumstances to keep some structures and resources available (Tam, 2021).2 We are in a new era which needs not merely the revival of these kinds of initiative but a new vision and unity of purpose around them centring on citizen democracy and the saving of our beautiful, precious and imperilled planet, our one and only home.


Chanan and Miller (2013) Rethinking Community Practice. Bristol: Policy Press
Tam (ed.) (2021) Tomorrow's Communities. Bristol: Policy Press.


1. For a map of deprivation in England in 2019 see:

2. My own local Authority, Manchester for example, has kept a neighbourhood structure with neighbourhood support officers to support as well as they can local community initiatives and local democratic residents and voluntary groups.

Read more about our Citizen Democracy series here.

The publisher is Citizen Network Research. Humanity and the Planet © Helena Kettleborough 2024.

Article | 08.03.24

Constitutional Reform, nature & economics, Neighbourhood Democracy, politics, England, Article

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