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Experiments in Democracy

  • Unitarian Church Emmanuel Road Cambridge, CB1 1JW United Kingdom (map)
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
— James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty

Four leaders of democratic thought and action come together to inspire and challenge Cambridge citizens in this event from Transition Cambridge, 38 Degrees Cambridge, Rebooting Democracy and Pivotal.

Do you think democracy may be broken? Are you frustrated with the slow pace of change in Cambridge city? Do you wish our leadership, instead of dividing on partisan lines, could work together to solve the huge problems - climate change, economic uncertainty, growing population, transportation chaos - which face us now?

Join us for four short presentations followed by Q & A and a chance to network over a drink and maybe even begin to organise for a positive change.

This event will be followed on 7th March with an "open space" style discussion event, Experiments in Democracy Part Two,  focusing on the question: "How can we improve our democracy?"  and which will include at least one group discussing how to stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming city council elections.

Tickets are free, but a suggested donation of £3-£5 will be collected on the night.

Peter Macfadyen

Peter Macfadyen was one of the initiators of Independents for Frome (IfF), a group which after initially gaining power with 10/17 Frome Town Council seats in 2011, went on to win them all in 2015. IfF has initiated and evolved a raft of different ways to run the Council, based on a set of shared value based goals.  These look to prioritise public engagement to tackle issues of wellbeing, inequality, and to enable balanced development.

Author of ‘Flatpack Democracy’, Peter served as Frome's mayor 2014/15 and is now Council Leader.  He continues to work on spreading the idea of "politics without parties" as a way of improving local governance and responsiveness to the needs of people and the environment.


David Babbs

David is the founding Executive Director of 38 Degrees, an independent British not-for-profit political-activism organisation that campaigns on a wide range of issues. Its campaigns utilise the power of the internet to galvanise huge numbers of people to sign petitions, send emails and donate cash for action on specific issues. Its successes have included forcing the coalition government to U-turn on the forests sell-off, free school meals for all infants and paying for the judicial review which successfully challenged health secretary Jeremy Hunt's plans to shut down key services at Lewisham hospital. 38 Degrees campaigns have been called "spam", but Babbs argues passionately that "The fact MPs described contact from their local voters on issues that matter to them as spam tells you all you need to know about why the public feels like that about traditional politics" (, 2014).

Manuel Arriaga

Manuel is the author of Rebooting Democracy: A Citizen's Guide to Reinventing Politics. He is a visiting research professor at New York University and was previously on the faculty at the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School, where, for several years, he conducted research and taught courses on how organizations and individuals can become more effective decision-makers. His work has been published in leading management journals and academic reference volumes. An award-winning teacher, he continues to lecture at Cambridge.

Marie-Louise Holland

Marie-Louise is an Independent Cambridge City Councillor for Castle ward. A firm believer in working with existing structures to modify, challenge, scrutinise and reform, she will describe her own journey to becoming an independent councillor, and the pressures local government is currently facing. Holland's fellow Independent Councillor, John Hipkin, will also be on hand to provide advice to any attendees considering standing as Independents or aiding others' campaigns.

Free event, but donations will be collected on the night. Please book at:

Cover Image by Alan Rogerson:

Earlier Event: December 10
Can ipods Grow on Trees?
Later Event: March 7
Pivotal Conversation 2