What I do

What do I do? I make democracy work better! I do this through consultancy, research and evaluation and then by writing and talking about it.

Andy Williamson - UK Parliament: Speakers CommissionI take democratic organisations – parliaments, governments, councils and others – and citizens on a journey from arrogance to intimacy. As an internationally recognised expert in digital democracy and citizen engagement,
I undertake consultancy, research, coaching and commentary focusing on digital and social media, society and policy. I’m a sought after media commentator and a popular and motivating keynote speaker.

Andy Williamson - TEDxRhodes by Chrysi ChrysohouMy passion is finding better ways to engage, build trust and lead change. My work supports parliaments to be open, governments to be agile, active and relevant and citizens to become more effective participants in their own civic lives.

Through an evidence-based approach that’s always people-focused, my reputation is built on delivering practical, high-value strategic and policy projects. Drawing on a background in technology strategy, innovation, research, start-ups and policy, I bring strong analytical skills, strategic thinking and senior governance and leadership. And I’ve run organisations, programmes and projects across technology, academia and the public sector all over the world.

Andy is an exceptional thinker and political innovator. He thinks outside the box, constantly questioning and searching for a better way of creating democracy and public participation. He’s a quick, astute and a thorough systems thinker, able to look at the bigger picture, yet focus on the detail that makes up a system.

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My key skills

  • Community engagement
  • Democratic innovation and civic participation
  • Facilitation
  • Management, leadership and governance
  • Policy and strategy
  • Process design
  • Project management
  • Public speaking
  • Research, evaluation and research management/supervision
  • Start-ups and mentoring
  • Writing

Relevant experience

Andy is a leading thinker on digital democracy, and I suspect he knows everyone who has any connection or reputation in the area.

Open Government/Parliament and strategies for parliamentary openness: I’ve been involved in a wide range of open government projects, advising numerous public services around the world on strategy and good practice around openness, transparency and the effective use of open data. I have developed and implemented an open parliament strategy for the Parliament of Moldova, which included and developing resources and training for parliamentary staff, members and civil society organisations. I led the UK Open Government Partnership (OGP) Public Accountability stream around parliamentary openness, am a member of the OGP UK Steering Committee, the Scottish OGP Pioneer Board and the global Legislative Openness Working Group. I have researched, written and presented extensively on parliamentary openness and engagement, including invited speeches in the French Senate, Swedish Riksdagen, the UK Parliament and the Chambers of Deputies of Chile and Italy. I supported the work of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy in the UK Parliament and am a member of the Presiding Officer’s Taskforce on Digital Communication in the National Assembly for Wales.

Citizen engagement and participation: I have an extensive background supporting public services to engage more effectively with citizens and civil society. Equally, my work supports civil society organisations to be more effective in the way that they connect with governments and parliaments. My work covers campaigning, contributing to policy development, the design of the legislative process and, more broadly, the co-design and co-delivery of public services. As Director of the Hansard Society’s Digital Democracy Programme I built an innovative research programme into digital engagement that has led to lasting strategic change across several institutions, from ministries to the House of Lords. In the past, I co-chaired local authority forums on digital engagement and collaboration and acted as a senior adviser the New Zealand Cabinet. More recently I have developed engagement strategies for the National Assembly of Serbia and assisted organisations as varied as the Centre for Research, Transparency and Accountability (Serbia), the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, the Supreme National Assembly of Kyrgyzstan, the European Commission and the parliaments of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. I acted as a critical friend to the National Assembly for Wales, undertaking a critical review of digital engagement practices within the Assembly.

Democratic and social innovation: With a background in technology startups and innovation, I’ve transferred these skills into innovative practices for social innovation and democratic strengthening. I’ve been involved in many projects from hackathons and innovation labs to establishing technology incubators and designing internal innovation processes for organisations ranging from universities to corporates. I design and facilitate open workshops on innovative ways to improve public engagement, including for health service design and delivery, two three-day workshops on democratic innovation for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and on collaborative government for the Scottish Government. I designed a role-playing tool to improve understanding of good engagement practices in Swedish local government and pivoted this into a new tool for Volvo, supporting their global employees to co-create solutions to complex problems through action learning and values-based decision making.

Facilitation and workshop delivery: I have a background in academic teaching and pedagogy and am a trained and highly experienced workshop facilitator with a dynamic and engaging style. I am often called on to lead workshops and have facilitated complex events amongst local councils in Sweden, with parliamentarians in the UK and Canada and with public groups in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, working with a wide variety of social and cultural groups.

Research, evaluation and publication: As an experienced qualitative researcher, I have undertaken and led many research and evaluation projects across a wide range of work areas in several countries, taught research methods and supervised academic and commercial research. I recently led a year-long global research project developing a data set and authoring the World e-Parliament Report for the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I have undertaken evaluations of the UN’s Latin American and the Caribbean’s network for parliamentary strengthening (RIPALC) and performed an end-of-term evaluation of the UN’s Global Centre for ICT in Parliaments. I have expertise in a wide range of data collection protocols and research methods, having led research programmes into parliamentary innovation, attitudes to politics, identifying barriers to public engagement in hard to reach groups and numerous projects helping to understand the impact of digital media on the democratic process. I have been a principle investigator on ESRC and EU funded projects and a visiting academic at a number of institutions, including the University of Manchester, Politecnico di Milano and Monash University. My academic research has a strong focus on social theory and political communications with a background in community empowerment and multiculturalism. I have an extensive publication record in both academic and mainstream media, as well as significant television and radio outputs.

Management, leadership and governance: From managing teams and complex, mission critical projects across multiple locations. I’ve built businesses, research centres and led challenging projects such as strategic transformation of a TelCo, internet banking and guided startups from zero to financial sustainability. I bring a reputation for strong leadership in the democratic sector and a background in governance and leadership. I have been Managing Director of an international research consultancy, Director of a significant think-tank, chair of Do-it, the UK’s leading digital volunteering charity, and on the board of numerous startups, commercial businesses and social organisations. I have chaired academic advisory boards, public bodies including being Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Government’s Digital Advisory Board. I am currently a member of the UK Open Government Network Steering Committee and of the Scottish OGP Pioneer Programme Board. When combined with my extensive strategic consulting experience from sectors as diverse as government, banking and technology it gives me a strong strategic antenna and a reputation for delivering clear, effective solutions that create demonstrably sustainable benefits and powerful transformation to the organisations I work with.

Andy spryly hurdles the boundaries of academia and policy with aplomb. He brings to life academic subjects that are at risk of descending into dryness by ensuring that their applicability is understood by those in commerce and government.

Where I do stuff