Working in a Modern Democracy

Our local democracy is changing

We’re exploring how digital tools and culture, along with new approaches to citizen engagement, are changing our local democracy. We want to hear your views, experiences, questions, ideas and concerns, so we can understand what this means for the future of our democracy, and in particular for the people who work in local democracy roles in our councils.

We know that we’re exploring these issues at a challenging time for our councils. Today’s local democracy is happening in the context of financial challenges for local government, and urgent challenges for our citizens and our environment. We also know that changes in local and national political landscapes will impact on our local democracy. This is all the more reason for us being ready to listen and to innovate.

What we’re asking

Some of the things we’re exploring are:


  • How is our local democracy changing and what might be different in the next five years?
  • How are digital tools and culture already changing our local democracy?
  • What are citizen expectations for democracy in our networked society?
  • What are the opportunities for reshaping local governance and decision-making, using new approaches to citizen engagement?
  • How can we make the best use of new technologies whilst not giving up our democratic space?
  • What is the role of data and AI in local decision-making?
  • What skills do people who work in a modern democracy have, and what skills do people need to develop, to support citizens and councillors well?
  • How can councils keep pace with digitalisation and other challenges for local democracy, in a way that’s relevant in their local context, whilst maintaining transparency and accountability?

Who we are

ADSO is the Association of Democratic Services Officers. We support people working in local democracy roles in councils and other organisations, through training, forums, events, information and advice. We’re a growing community of over 1,500 members across 320 councils in England and Wales.

A group of our members have volunteered to support people to share their views.

The programme is led by Carl Whistlecraft, ADSO Non-Executive Director and Diane Sims, ADSO Director of Communications.

Why we’re doing this

At ADSO we want to learn how we can best support and empower people who are working in democracy teams in councils. We want people to feel confident working in a digital age, and to become enablers of change in our councils. This includes being able to support councillors to embrace digital tools and culture, and being able to involve citizens in local decisions, using participatory tools and approaches.

What will the role of a democratic services officer look like in five years time? And what can ADSO do to help everyone with this shared journey?

Who can get involved

Everyone is welcome to get involved. If you’re someone who works in a Democracy team in a council or you work in another local democracy role, if you’re a citizen or a councillor, if you’re part of any organisation working to strengthen our democracy, or if you have something to share with us on this subject, we’d like to hear from you.

How to get involved

Our programme opened on 18th June 2024. You can find links here for taking part in our research and conversations, as soon as each option becomes available. You can also contact us now to register your interest.

For ADSO members:

For citizens and councillors:

  • Complete our online questionnaire

For partner organisations:

  • Take part in a research interview
  • Complete our online questionnaire

Contact us

If you’d like to find out more about this programme, or if you would like to get involved in our research interviews, please get in touch:


Carl Whistlecraft

Diane Sims