Public Engagement and its Impact on Parliaments AN INTERNATIONAL conference BRINGING TOGETHER ACADEMICS AND PRACTITIONERS - Friday 26 March 2021


The UK House of Commons and the Centre for Democratic Engagement (University of Leeds, UK) have joined forces to create an international network of academics, parliamentary officials and third sector organisations with an interest in public engagement and parliament: the International Parliament Engagement Network (IPEN).

The network was created on the back of the international conference we had aimed to host in 2020, about parliamentary public engagement, focusing particularly on its impact on parliaments and their scrutiny processes. This conference had to be postponed due to Covid-19. As we still can’t meet in person this year, we've decided to go ahead but virtually, and will be hosting an even more exciting conference (and more environmentally friendly!).

Three hubs spanning three continents

The conference will bring together parliamentary officials and academics from all over the world to discuss key challenges and opportunities brought by public engagement practices. It will be structured around three hubs, one in Australia (where the conference will start), one in Europe, and one in Brazil (where the conference will end).

Conference aims
  1. To share good practice in parliamentary public engagement, identify key challenges and ways to address these.
  2. Promote the exchange of information between practitioners and academics.
  3. Lead to the enhancement of practices in parliamentary public engagement.


This year's programme will consist of events led by three international hubs, reflecting IPEN's geographically diverse members. Participants will register for the whole conference (including the three hubs) and have access to as many or as few events as they wish to attend. We will have contributions from academics and officials from a wide range of countries including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. All times are GMT

01:30 - 05:30 Australia Hub
  • 01:30 - 01:45 Welcome and introduction
  • 01:45 - 03:00 Session 1: Australian Democracy and Parliamentary Public Engagement – who should be doing what and why?
  • 03:00 - 03:15 Keepin' it real!
  • 03:30 - 04:15 Session 2: Navigating different engagement relationships in Parliament
  • 04:30 - 05:15 Session 3: Current and emerging forms of engagement and strategies for reaching new audiences
  • 05:15 - 05:25 Identification of key points to share with International Parliamentary Engagement Network
  • 05:25 - 05:30 Final remarks on the future of Australian democracy
10:00 - 15:30 Europe Hub
  • 10:00 - 10:15 Welcome and introduction
  • 10:15 - 11:30 Session 1: Overview of engagement practices
  • 11:45 - 13:15 Session 2: Public engagement toolkit workshop
  • 14:00 - 15:00 Session 3: Mini-publics and parliaments roundtable
  • 15:10 - 15:30 Summary and close of Europe Hub
17:00-19:45 Brazil Hub
  • 17:00 - 18:15 Session 1: Parliamentarians and social media
  • 18:30 - 19:45 Session 2: Digital engagement with parliaments
  • 19:45 - 20:00 Summary and close

Scroll down for a more detailed programme of each hub

Links to recordings and any supplementary material will be posted after the conference in IPEN’s MS Team. Email us to become a member or subscribe to our newsletter below.

Australia Hub

Australia Hub led by Dr. Sarah Moulds

01:45 - 03:00 Australian Democracy and Parliamentary Public Engagement – who should be doing what and why?
  • The current state of our democracy and strengthening democratic practice in Australia Mark Evans (Democracy 2025 Project)
  • Why bother engaging: theories of engagement and democratic deliberation Simon Niemeyer & Nick Vlahos (University of Canberra)
  • Who should be leading the engagement in parliament: what legitimate role parliamentary staff should play? Open discussion
  • Identifying the different Australian ‘publics’ to engage


03:00 - 03:15 Keepin' it real!

Messages from members of the public and the media on what makes good public engagement


Screen break (15 mins)


03:30 - 04:15 Navigating different engagement relationships in Parliament
  • Stocktake of the challenges faced by parliamentary staff when developing, implementing and evaluating engagement strategies Laura Sweeney (Australian Senate) & Lauren Monaghan (Parliament of New South Wales)

Participants may attend one of the following breakout sessions led by experts in the field.

  1. Parliament vs the Public/s
  2. Parliamentary committees vs the Public/s
  3. Parliamentary committees vs the Parliament
  4. Parliamentary staff involved in engagement vs other parliamentary staff/parliamentarians


Screen Break (15 mins)


04:30 - 05:15 Current and emerging forms of engagement and strategies for reaching new audiences
  • Stocktake of current forms of engagement being undertaken or researched in Australia Australian Parliamentary Studies Group Executive

Participants may attend one of the following breakout sessions led by experts in the field.

  1. A focused digital engagement officer to develop digital engagement strategies
  2. Deliberative democracy and citizen-led decision making in action: Andrew Leigh example
  3. Innovation and public engagement: outside of the box thinking in Australian parliaments
  4. Young people and parliamentary engagement
  5. Self-determined engagement with parliament by First Nations peoples


05:15- 05:30 Summary and final remarks

Europe Hub

Europe hub led by IPEN Executive Team

10:15 - 11:30 Overview of Engagement Practices

Chair: Aileen Walker (Global Partners Governance)

  • Education and Engagement in the Irish Parliament Derek Dignam & Conor Reale (Parliament of Ireland)
  • Taking parliament closer to the people: Public engagement in transition Kate Addo (Parliament of Ghana)
  • Public engagement with the work of parliaments: Building a comparative perspective Alex Prior (Inter-Parliamentary Union)


Screen Break (15 mins)


11:45 - 13:15 Public Engagement toolkit workshop

Chairs: Prof. Cristina Leston-Bandeira (University of Leeds) & Laura Evans (Nifty Fox Creative)

This is an interactive session to explore principles and challenges of public engagement, with a view of establishing a toolkit on public engagement. Participants will explore different areas of engagement using interactive tools e.g. Google Jamboard and live scribing from Nifty Fox Creative. This interactive workshop will be structured around three key questions listed below.

  1. What is public engagement?
  2. What is effective engagement?
  3. How do we evaluate public engagement?


Lunch Break (45 mins)


14:00 - 15:00 Mini-publics and Parliaments roundtable

In recent times we have seen numerous parliaments across Europe commission, or run their own, mini-publics in order to enhance public engagement in executive scrutiny and enhance deliberative norms. This roundtable draws on a number of European cases to reflect on why this trend is occurring; what advantages the linkage between the two types of institution brings to parliaments and the public; and what lessons can be learnt from these cases about the best ways to link parliaments and mini-publics.

Chair : Dr. Stephen Elstub (Newcastle University)

Panellists: Claudia Chwalisz (OECD), Zohreh Khoban (Uppsala University), and Min Reuchamps (Catholic University of Louvain)


Screen break (10 mins)


15:10 - 15:30 Summary of Europe Hub

Brazil Hub

Brazil hub led by Prof. Cristiane Brum Bernardes & Dr. Isabele Mitozo

17:00 - 18:15 Parliamentarians and Social Media

Chair: Prof. Cristiane Brum Bernardes (CEFOR / Brazilian Chamber of Deputies)

  • People first: Digital strategies to connect, and keep, citizens engaged -  Marina Gattás (MP Chief Communication Advisor/ Brazilian Chamber of Deputies)
  • Plataformization of mandates in the Brazilian Legislature Cristiano Ferri (CEFOR / Brazilian Chamber of Deputies)


Screen Break (15 mins)


18:30 - 19:45 Digital Engagement with Parliaments

Chair: Dr. Isabele Mitozo (Federal University of Maranhão, Brazil)

  • WhatsApp and call-to-action for parliamentary debates in the Brazilian Senate - Viktor Chagas (Federal Fluminense University, Brazil)
  • E-Participation in the Legislature: challenges and opportunities for civic engagement - Diego Cunha (LabHacker - Brazilian Chamber of Deputies)


We have made the posters due to be presented at last year's postponed workshop available. These are created by a range of academics and practitioners from parliaments across the world. If you would like to view these, please click on the link below.

This event is funded by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.
Organisers & Contact
  • Elise Uberoi, House of Commons Library, House of Commons
  • Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Professor of Politics, University of Leeds
  • Nicole Nisbett, University of Leeds



Created with images by 627389 - "westminster big ben london" • helen35 - "parliament house canberra australia" • Cristina Leston-Bandeira - "National Congress building, Brasilia", "São Bento Palace, Lisbon", "Scottish Parliament Chamber"