Reimagine Democracy with Geoff Mulgan

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Democracy seems a very simple concept: Etymologically, it just means “ruled by the people”. But it is a complex and multilayered system than implies multiple elements including regular elections, political parties, constitutions, or supreme courts. Our democratic system is built on the model of democracy that cristalized in the 19th century and has barely changed despite the big changes registed in how we work, travel, shop or have social interactions. According to Sir Geoff Mulgan, Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation at University College London, citizen’s trust on democratic institutions has been eroding consistently for the last decades “and I think part of the reason is because we have failed in reimagining democracy”.

According to the author of “Another World is Possible: how to reignite social and political imagination”, political and social imagination has shrunk in recent years due to the loss of trust in the system, because of political stalemate and our inability to reinvent democracy. For the first time, “a majority in many countries expect that their children’s lives will be worse than theirs”, which instigates people to want the return of some “golden age” in the past or to get involved in negative politics where you look for scapegoats or someone to blame.

That is why Sir Geoff Mulgan believes that 2024 will be quite a pessimistic year and will not be a year of fantastic progress. This year, more than 4 billion people across the world will be asked to vote and elect their representatives, including in the United States and the European Union. “I believe many of the elections will ensure what is wrong with democracy rather than showing the way forward.”

Nowadays, technology is contributing to polarisation and to the increasing levels of distrust in democracy “because 20 years ago far too little work was done to take these resources in our advantage”. However, technology is also a great tool for people to work together. According to the author of “Big Mind: how collective intelligence can change our world” and “Social Innovation: how societies find the power to change”, using social innovation to amplify collective intelligence can provide a breakthrough moment to reimagine democracy. “There’s an imbalance today because R&D is not being used to solve social problems”. There is a disconnection between scientists and the public, because even though people believe in science, they don’t feel that it benefits them whatsoever, driving them to alienation. “This is where social innovation comes in because it gives people a sense of agency”, which is lacking nowadays, and it is at the heart of democracy. Every society needs a pro-innovation, pro-R&D stance but it needs to be as much about the human, as much about the social, as it is about the physical stuff”. Most problems that governments must face nowadays involve quite complex science. Institutions like IPCC and W.H.O. are good examples, even if marginal, of collective intelligence being successful in gathering global knowledge, thinking and data to support decision-making at a global level. “A truly intelligent society is the one that makes the most of all the collective intelligence available to it.”

Sir Geoff Mulgan is clear on his rejection of the argument that autocracies are more efficient than democracies. “Over History, democracy turned out to be the best and most effective mean of governance ever” and it has the biggest achievements in terms of economic growth, human wellbeing, health and social rights. However, it doesn’t mean it is perfect and it doesn’t deserve to be reimagined and reinvented periodically. “The ethos of democracy is the willingness to engage with uncomfortable facts and ideas. That’s what drives progress in the long run and that’s why reinvented democracy will always outperform autocracy.”


Reimagine Democracy is part of the ReImagine TALKS, a series of video podcasts launched by Re-Imagine Europa together with leading media partners and featuring some of the most innovative, influential, and original thinkers of our time, challenging conventional thinking and reimagining key topics with an unexpected and contemporary lens. The series is hosted by Erika Stäel von Holstein and Luca de Biase, RIE’s Chief Executive and Research Director, respectively. The previous episodes delved on Reimagine Capitalism with Professor Rebecca Henderson, Reimagine Power with Professor Manuel Castells, Reimagine Trust with the Internet pioneer Lisa Gansky, Reimagine Ethics with Professor Jeroen van den Hoven, Reimagine Narratives with Professor Marcin Napiórkowski, Reimagine Taxation with Professor Rita de la Feria, Reimagine Information with Professor Dino Pedreschi and Reimagine Agriculture with Professor Louise Fresco.


You can watch and/or download the series at:


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