Prof Graham Smith

Prof Graham Smith

I am Professor of Politics at the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in the School of Social Sciences. Currently, I am spending much of my time working as the founding Chair of the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA) funded by the European Climate Foundation. KNOCA aims to improve the commissioning, design, delivery, follow-up and evaluation of climate assemblies to enhance impact on climate governance. The report Climate assemblies: emerging trends, challenges and opportunities summarises key learnings from KNOCA's work.

My main research interests are in democratic theory and practice, particularly democratic innovations / participatory democratic institutions and their relationship with climate governance and other long-term political challenges. My book Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation is widely recognised as key to the establishment of this area of study. I have been recognised by Apolitical as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Academics in Government.

Recent publications include Democracy in a Pandemic: Participation in Response to Crisis - an open access collection edited with colleagues at the participation charity Involve - and Can Democracy Safeguard the Future?. Listen to me talking about democracy and the pandemic. Read a short synopsis of the argument about democracy and future generations, watch the book launch and hear me discussing these themes on RSA Bridges to the Future, Reasons to be Cheerful and the New Books Network.

I am a collaborator with the global Participedia network (funded by SSHRC) and was until recently Chair of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD).

I have had the pleasure of being a visiting fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School; European University Institute, Florence; Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam; Åbo Akademi, Finland. I am an Honarary Fellow at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

I am in demand on the topic of citizens' assemblies. I've done a couple of interviews with Extinction Rebellion. Check out The Deliberate Rebellion and a discussion with Gail Bradbrook and Kate Raworth on alternative economic and democratic futures. Read a two-part interview for Open Democracy on Citizens assembly: towards a politics of ‘considered judgement’ and blogs on climate assemblies: Can citizen deliberation address the climate crisis? Not if it is disconnected from politics and policy-making (LSE) Designing for impact: the next stage for citizens' assemblies (FDSD), How to bring the wisdom of the public to bear on the climate emergency and What we've learned about the kind of climate action the public wants to see (The Conversation), Institutionalizing deliberative mini-publics in Madrid City and German Speaking Belgium – the first steps (IDEA).

Watch a video of my slightly dated Inaugural Lecture on Democratic Innovations or a shorter interview on the same theme for the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm.

Visit my Google Scholar page.

My research focuses predominantly on participatory and deliberative democracy, with particular attention on participatory climate governance – how to empower citizens within political decision making on the climate and ecological crisis.

This builds on my foundational research on democratic innovations and my more recent role as Chair of the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA).

Much of my current research is on aspects of climate citizens’ assemblies, although I am interested in broader forms of climate participation and deliberation.

Over the next few years, I plan to develop research projects that focus specific attention on how to build participatory climate governance. Whether we take an incremental or radical approach to participatory and deliberative democracy, we need to build the capacity of administrations to facilitate relevant forms of citizen engagement around climate.

I am also working with Spanish colleagues completing a research project led by Professor Joan Font (IESA, Cordoba) that analyses the impact of advisory councils. This builds on our earlier influential work on the way that public authorities often cherry-pick proposals from democratic innovations.

I continue to be an international collaborator of Participedia, a global network and knowledge platform for democratic innovations funded by SSHRC (Canada).

Previously I was Principal Investigator of the Scholio project funded by the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and the John Templeton Foundation that investigated the potential of argument visualisation platforms and The role of community-based initiatives in energy saving funded by the UK Research Council’s Energy Programme. I was Co-Invesigator on the ESRC-funded projects A Citizens Assembly on Brexit and Democracy Matters that won the 2016 Political Studies Association Democratic Innnovation Award.

  • Centre for the Study of Democracy
  • Climate Change, Energy Policy and Sustainability

In brief

Research areas

Democratic innovations, Participatory governance, Climate governance and Future generations