Falling on deaf ears: The lack of listening that denies access and makes voice valueless

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
G. Goggin, F. Martin, & J. Hutchinson (eds), 2017
Issue Date:
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The presence of a concerning and seemingly growing ‘democratic deficit’ in a number of democratic countries is widely acknowledged and discussed in political communication, sociology, and critical literature. In 2016 in the wake of the shock UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, the Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, publicly acknowledged that many citizens feel that their voice is “falling on deaf ears”. This article reports the findings of an intensive six-month ethnographic and participatory action research project working inside the UK government from June to December 2016 immediately following the Brexit vote that examined government communication and identified a number of serious failings in listening to and engagement with stakeholders and citizens. It argues that this ‘listening deficit’ is a significant contributor to the democratic deficit and identifies strategies necessary to improve listening to increase access to policy making and give voice value, which in turn can reinvigorate democracy, increase trust, and create social equity.
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