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Ciaran Cummins

Ciaran Cummins

Senior Researcher

Centre for Deliberative Research

I am interested in how we reflect together, how we can do this better, and how this can help us respond to social challenges. I studied the philosophy of social science, focusing on deliberative democracy. This sparked a curiosity in me about the myriad worlds that connect to deliberation. I explored this in my work as a campaigning investigative journalist, which brought me into contact with democratic life as it plays out in activism, community organising and trade unionism.

As a researcher at the think-tank Demos, I looked at how the public can be brought into policymaking and expanded my experience of citizen engagement. This included providing policy resources for a local authority deliberative process and supporting a university in its public dialogues. I also led and supported novel online deliberative research, including in hybrid online/offline settings. I maintained an interest in the breadth of public participation, for example by researching the experiences of activists during the pandemic.

Since my studies, I have documented the growing world of ‘public philosophy’ –philosophical dialogue facilitated outside of academia – interviewing practitioners at my site, The Public Life of the Mind. This has embedded my understanding of deliberation in a wider context of efforts to create space for reflection today.

I bring my interest in exploring the breadth of public participation to our work at The Centre for Deliberative Research. For example, where are we overlooking existing, grassroots participation – what Trevor Ngwane calls ‘democracy on the margins’ – that offer routes to richer, more inclusive, and effective reflection? By pursuing such challenges, we can further deliberative best practice, both as an aid to policymaking and as a method of social research itself.

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