Prof Graham Smith

Prof Graham Smith


I am Professor of Politics and Director of 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.

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 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 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: Desinging 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 current research focuses on two main areas.

Participatory democratic institutions (or democratic innovations)

This stream of work builds on the theoretical and empirical approach initially developed in my book Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation. My particular interest at present is how to 'land' participatory processes in public authorities such that they have impact.

I am an international collaborator (previously Chair of the Research Committee) of Participedia, a global network and knowledge platform for democratic innovations funded by SSHRC (Canada).

I was Principal Investigator of the Scholio project funded by the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and the John Templeton Foundation that investigatd the potential of argument visualisation platforms.

I was Co-Invesigator on the ESRC-funded projects A Citizens Assembly on Brexit and Democracy Matters which won the 2016 Political Studies Association Democratic Innnovation Award.

I was an international co-investigator for the projects Cherry-picking: The Results of Participatory Processes and Associative Democracy: Advisory Councils in a Multilevel Setting funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and led Joan Font at the IESA in Cordoba.

Democracy and future generations

My recent book Can democracy safeguard the future? combines my interests in democratic theory, institutional design and long-term policy challenges such as the climate crisis. This area of work investigates the drivers of short-termism in democratic systems (democratic myopia) and potential institutional remedies.

This research feeds into and is informed by my work as Chair of the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA) and the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.


  • 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