Professor Graham Smith
Professor of Politics
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I joined the University of Westminster in November 2012 as Professor of Politics in the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), Department of Politics and International Relations. Previously I was Professor of Politics and Head of Department at the University of Southampton where I worked from 1999. From 1997 to 1999 I was a Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde.
My first degree is in Chemistry, my Masters in Environmental Science, my PhD in green political theory. It's a long story!
I am an Honarary Fellow at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. For five months from Feb 2010 I was a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence; and in the Fall Semester 2013, Senior Visiting Scholar on the Democracy Program at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School.
My main research interests are in democratic theory and practice, environmental politics and the politics of the third sector/social economy.
Watch a video of my Inaugural Lecture on Democratic Innovations on YouTube.
I am the convenor of the second year module Democratic Innovations, an optional modules for all students studying Politics, International Relations and Development. It uses a novel assessment method: writing a new case for the global research platform Participedia.
I am an experienced PhD supervisor and am interested in supervising students in areas of democratic theory and practice and environmental politics.
I am Director of Studies for the following doctoral research students:
Hans Asenbaum, ‘Power, Identity and Anonymity in Digital Democratic Innovations'
Emmeline Cooper, 'Pension Funds, Sustainable Investing and the Promise of Innovative Corporate Governance'
Martin King, ‘Deliberation and Decision Making Online: Evaluating Platform Design’
Rabea Willers, 'Athens 2.0 or Trojan Horse: Digital Civic Engagement in Smart Cities'
My current research focuses on three main areas. First, on democratic innovations - institutions designed to increase and deepen citizen participation in the political decision-making process. This work builds on the theoretical approach initially developed in my book Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation.
I am Chair of the Research Committee of Participedia, a global network and knowledge platform for democratic innovations, including research groups at the Universities of British Columbia and Harvard. The network is currently funded by SSHRC (Canada), with earlier research on practitioner engagement funded by the ESRC Imagine Connected Communities consortium.
I was co-investigator on the recent ESRC funded Democracy Matters project that organised pilot constitutional assemblies on English devolution – I was Academic Director of Assembly South. The project won the 2016 Political Studies Association Democratic Innnovation Award. I was also an international co-investigator for the Cherry-picking: The Results of Participatory Processes project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Recently the same team received funding for a new project 'Associational democracy: accountable autonomy, participatory bias or vicious circle?' that will analyse the practice of Spanish community councils.
Secondly, I am combining my interests on democratic theory and institutional design with environmental politics on a book project tentatively titled Designing Democracy for the Long Term. This will investigate the drivers of democratic myopia and potential institutional remedies. This research feeds into and is informed by my work as Chair of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.
A final area of research focuses on the relationship between modes of environmental governance and the shaping of pro-environmental social practices. I have led two significant RCUK funded projects that have investigated the role of third sector/community organisations in promoting low-carbon practices. The Role of Community-based Initiatives in Energy Saving was an interdisciplinary project engaged in experimental and comparative research that ran from 2010-2014. I also co-directed the environmental stream of research in the Third Sector Research Centre.