Ciaran is interested in how we reflect together, how we can do this better, and how this can help us respond to social challenges. He studied the philosophy of social science, focusing on deliberative democracy. This sparked a curiosity in him about the myriad worlds that connect to deliberation. He explored this in his work as a campaigning investigative journalist, which brought him into contact with democratic life as it plays out in activism, community organising and trade unionism.
As a researcher at the think-tank Demos, Ciaran looked at how the public can be brought into policymaking and expanded his experience of citizen engagement. This included providing policy resources for a local authority deliberative process and supporting a university in its public dialogues. He also led and supported novel online deliberative research, including in hybrid online/offline settings. Ciaran has maintained an interest in the breadth of public participation, for example by researching the experiences of activists during the pandemic.
Since his studies, he has documented the growing world of ‘public philosophy’ –philosophical dialogue facilitated outside of academia – interviewing practitioners at The Public Life of the Mind. This has embedded his understanding of deliberation in a wider context of efforts to create space for reflection today.
Ciaran brings his 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.