control the world they live in is the ideal set out by home
secretary David Blunkett today. Mr Blunkett said that an important
part of this new agenda is the need to revitalise our democracy and
The home secretary said that this vision of civil renewal needs to be
at the heart of the government's future agenda. To make this a
reality, government must not simply do things to people, but with
people. This is all about empowering people to take control of their
own lives and to contribute to solutions in the wider community.
Mr Blunkett welcomed recent Economic and Social Research Council
Democracy research which looked at these themes, but also challenged
the academic community to continue to take part in developing
achievable civil renewal policies for civil renewal and greater
participation. Addressing questions to achieve this is critical -
questions such as:
- what will re-engage people in modern politics
- in the modern world what kinds of engagement do people actually
- what skills and resources do people need to overcome barriers to
The home secretary stressed that the new Centre for Active
Citizenship, soon to be launched by the Home Office, will help
address some of these questions.
Building on themes outlined in his Edith Kahn Memorial lecture, Mr
'Civil Renewal provides a far reaching reform agenda - one that needs
to be at the heart of future Government policy. The government must
continue to fundamentally redefine its relationship with the people
it serves, and empower communities and boost active citizenship.
'We need to foster a society that helps people to take more control
of their lives and the decision-making that shapes the communities in
which they live. I am looking to promote a form of positiv e
consumerism where to get something back from society, we need to
encourage people to put something in.
'We are truly free when we act together as members of a community to
shape our own lives. That is what real democracy is all about - the
participation of citizens in the society in which they live, with an
enabling state providing the resources, legislation, framework and
accumulation of assets and capacity building, to equalise the chance
of this becoming a reality for those without wealth or access to
sources of personal advancement.
'There are many challenges to achieving this - particularly the
modern dilemma of how to engage people in mainstream politics.
Positively, evidence shows that the vast majority of people recognise
that they have rights and responsibilities towards the community.
However this isn't necessarily being translated into engagement.
'Our proposals for a Centre for Active Citizenship will bring
together 'thinkers' and 'doers' in a partnership to develop new
ideas, best practice and cutting edge research that can help drive
'The centre will address some of the key issues facing our society
today. By working with the academic community we, in the Home Office,
can help create such a vehicle for change. There's been some useful
work in this area, but we're in the early stages of this debate. I am
challenging the academic community to play their part in civil
renewal by considering some of the issues I have raised today.
'Just as the late nineteenth century witnessed the transformation of
community through municipal action; and the twentieth century through
state intervention and welfare provision; so in the twenty first
century democracy must be revitalised to reflect aspirations as well
as the challenges of an electorate who want government at every level
to see them as partners, not simply as endorsers, of distant
decision-making which seeks merely to legislate the actions of
1. Mr Blunkett was speaking at the Democracy & Participation
Programme Key Findings and Policy Implications Conference, Great
George Street, London, on 24 September 2003.
2. Mr Blunkett gave the Edith Kahn Memorial lecture at the House of
Commons on 11 June and published a pamphlet
entitled 'Civil Renewal: a New Agenda' which is available on the Home
Office website. The home
secretary also announced that £1m will be available to set up
a new Centre for Active Citizenship which would to operate as a
consortium of organisations, university departments and think tanks -
developing new ideas, best practice and leading edge research.
3. The vast majority of people in England and Wales recognise that,
as citizens they have rights and responsibilities towards the
community, according to the main findings from the 2001 Home Office
Citizenship Survey published on 16 September 2003. The survey is available here.