Digital tools are increasingly used by urban decision-makers and citizens to engage with each other. This user-centred enquiry looked at the evidence, desirability, feasibility and viability for digital democratic innovations which support women’s engagement in policy initiation and design across Greater Manchester.

The principles of human-centred design and community organising informed our approach throughout the project. We shared reflections throughout the journey with blog posts reflecting on a field trip to Barcelona, and gatherings of our Greater Manchester-based partnership group.

How have women been involved in and impacted by digital democratic innovation?

What do women in Greater Manchester need and want in order to meaningfully participate in digital democracy?

What forms
of digital democratic innovation are possible in GM?

can digital democratic innovation be realised in GM?


In our exploration of these questions, GM Decides drew lessons from an international advisory board, worked with a partnership group to ground these lessons in a city-regional context, and conducted a series of public input sessions to harvest knowledge, seed ideas and nurture a network of people interested in digital democratic innovation. We found it was important to go back to basics and think about what kinds of space invite people to participate well.

The delivery partners for this project were Katie Finney of Amity and Alice Toomer-McAlpine with At The Moment Productions. Browse their report and associated videos online at GM Decides - Understanding Women's Participation.

To find out more about this project, email our ARC members Katie and Alice.

News, events and blog

Building on our ongoing Developing Coproductive Capacities research with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), we invited Arnau Monterde – a supervisor of Barcelona’s Decidim platform – to share Barcelona’s experience in integrating digital platforms as part of a wider transformation of the democratic process.

More than sixty people gathered at the Ziferblat event space in Manchester’s Northern Quarter to celebrate the publication of the report, How can we govern cities differently? The promise and practices of co-production.

An Evening with Jam and Justice - How can we govern cities differently? (Banner image)
Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 17:30 to 20:00
Ziferblat, Edge Street, Manchester, M4 1HW

The Jam and Justice Action Research Collective will be sharing what we have learned and celebrating the outcomes of our projects in Greater Manchester.

To exemplify co-productive design principles means challenging the idea of an ‘end-user’ who receives a final report. It means rethinking what impact looks like and how it can be achieved. Our commitment is to engage decision-makers in a collaborative learning journey through informal spaces for exchange and international networking. Trans-local learning is an important element in opening up spaces for learning and dissemination often reserved for academics to urban decision-makers. Trans-localism is more than just cities learning from each other across national boundaries. It points to the need for meaningful interactions between networked individuals and groups of similarly thinking people beyond the local. What is at stake is a sense of belonging through shared perspectives and concerns that transcend local boundaries.

In this third blog for our Trans-local Learning mini-series, Action Research Collective member Alice Toomer McAlpine reflects on her experience at the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy in Barcelona in November 2018.

Quotation from the Fawcett Society: women must be partners when policy is designed
Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - 09:30 to 11:30

GM Decides' Partnership Group meets to plan for an upcoming design sprint.

Quotation from the Fawcett Society: women must be partners when policy is designed

After months of preparation (including a field trip to Barcelona to meet some of those behind the city’s democratic portal), the GM Decides project kicked off last month with the first meeting of its Partnership Group. The Group was formed and brought together by ARC leads Alice Toomer-McAlpine and Katie Finney. The first session introduced the overarching aim, drew on examples from existing work on digital democratic innovation, and identified how the project should proceed. What follows is extracted from a video shared with participants.

Realising Just Cities conference logo, superimposed on an image of Cape Town, South Africa

The Realising Just Cities programme is supporting peer learning visits to Cape Town and Barcelona for public sector strategists and community practitioners from Greater Manchester, to expand their knowledge of co-productive practices and participatory democracy in other urban settings.

Mistra Urban Futures in Cape Town and IOPD in Barcelona

Academic and practitioner researchers are travelling to Cape Town and Barcelona in November to share collective insights from the Jam and Justice project, as part of a delegation from the Realising Just Cities programme. They will be joined by strategy and policy leads from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), who seek to learn more about co-production for urban governance and participatory decision-making.