Professor Graham Smith
Professor of Politics
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I am Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in the Department of Politics and International Relations.
My main research interests are in democratic theory and practice (particularly participatory democratic institutions), climate politics and the third sector/social economy.
Previously I was Professor of Politics and Head of Department at the University of Southampton, where I worked from 1999 to 2012, and Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde from 1997. My first degree is in Chemistry, my Masters in Environmental Science, my PhD in green political theory. It's a long story!
I am currently involved in a number of funded research projects, including Scholio (University of Connecticut), Citizens' Assembly on Brexit (ESRC), Participedia (SSHRC) and AssoDem (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness). See 'Research' for more details.
I am Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam and Honarary Fellow at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. In 2010 I was a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and in the Fall 2013, Senior Visiting Scholar on the Democracy Program at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School. I was recently appointed as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the RSA.
Outside of academia, I am Chair of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD).
Watch a video of my Inaugural Lecture on Democratic Innovations on YouTube.
I am the convenor of the modules Democracy in Crisis (first year) and Democratic Innovations (second year). Both are optional modules for all students studying Politics, International Relations and Development. I am experimenting with novel assessment methods: for example, on Democracy in Crisis students work in groups to create videos; on Democratic Innovations students write 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/or climate/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’
Gilles Pradeau, '"What have they done?" The Fate of Proposals in Participatory Budgeting'
Rabea Willers, 'Athens 2.0 or Trojan Horse: Digital Civic Engagement in Smart Cities'
My current research focuses on three main areas.
Participatory democratic institutions (or democratic innovations)
This stream of 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 am Principal Investigator of the Scholio project funded by the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and the John Templeton Foundation. The project is using experimental methods to understand how news media comments platforms can be designed more effectively to reduce dysfunctional behaviours and promote more reasonable and civil dialogue.
I am Co-Invesigator on an ESRC-funded project A Citizens Assembly on Brexit. The Assembly took place over two weekends in September 2017 bringing together a randomly selected group of 50 citizens who considered Britain's post-Brexit future. This builds on an earlier ESRC project Democracy Matters which 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 am also an international co-investigator for the "Associational democracy: accountable autonomy, participatory bias or vicious circle?" project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. This is led by Joan Font at the IESA. The same team recently completed the innovative project Cherry-picking: The Results of Participatory Processes.
I am combining my interests on democratic theory and institutional design with climate politics in a series of articles and book project tentatively titled Long Term Democracy: Institutional Innovation, Future Generations and Climate Change. This will investigate the drivers of short-termism in democratic systems (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.
Environmental governance and social practices
A final area of research focuses on the relationship between modes of environmental governance and the shaping of 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.