Parliament from above


The Hansard Society strives to be at the cutting edge of ideas around public engagement, political processes and digital technology.

An innovative idea, if it becomes successful, very quickly becomes an accepted part of the fabric of life. We believe is a testament to our effectiveness that many of the ideas we have proposed in the past – forums for select committees, digital engagement by parliamentarians and visitor materials for Parliament – are now firmly embedded as a normal part of doing business in politics.


Current projects

Sense4UsSENSE4US is a research and development project that aims to tackle the problem of ‘information overload’ by finding and aggregating the most relevant data for a particular policy area. Data sources to be searched include; open data, public data and data from social media. The provenance of the information will be collected, proposed policies will be tracked to show their evolution over time, and  crucially the evidence that was used to inform any policy changes will be clear.

The tools created will also be designed to help policy-makers across Europe better understand the impact of different policy choices ahead of time. Policy-makers will be able to test out different scenarios and predict the impact of their decisions on a variety of stakeholders.

By using a greater range of more up to date information sources, by tracking policy development and the evidence used to inform policy decisions, as well as testing out the impact of proposed policy on those it will affect; policy outcomes for citizens should be improved. We will test these tools with policy-makers in local, national and European institutions to compare and evaluate the results.

SENSE4US is a collaborative project funded by the European Commission that will start in October 2013. There are 6 other partners based in Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the UK. We will share our findings as the project evolves – for more information visit SENSE4US.

Lords of the BlogLords of the Blog encourages dialogue between the public and Members of the House of Lords. This is where Members of the Lords write blogs on their specialist areas and talk about life and work in the House of Lords. We have a growing number of regular contributors as well as guest appearances from other Peers.

Lords of the Blog was the first cross-party collaborative political blog, set up in 2008 to shed greater light on the work of the House of Lords, the activities and interests of its Members, and to provide an opportunity for the public to engage with them. In 2012 the blog won the Nominet Internet Award for Online public services and information.

You can follow the blog on Twitter @lordsoftheblog to keep up to date with new posts and contributors.


Past innovation

HeadsUpHeadsUp was an online forum for under 18s to debate political issues with their peers and with influential decision-makers. It provided a safe, student-oriented space where young people become more informed about political issues, improved their discussion skills and let adults with political influence know what they thought.

HeadsUp ran for 10 years from 2003-2013, here’s a round up of some of our achievements in that time:

  • we racked up nearly 10,000 comments about political issues from students across 50 forums
  • 330 parliamentarians & decision-makers took part in the online debates 
  • HeadsUp users’ views were mentioned in debates in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords
  • we got under 18s talking about topics as varied as; animal welfare, equality, sex education, crime, immigration, the European Union and foreign affairs


WeGov was a three year research and development project with the aim of connecting politicians and policy-makers with citizens’ online political conversations. The final web application allowed politicians to find political discussions on Facebook and Twitter, to analyse the debate for key issues and participants and to add their comment into the discussions.

The tool was tested with politicians and policy-makers across Europe. This was part of a collaborative project involving a number of partner organisations and funded by the European Commission. For more on the findings visit the WeGov website.

This was part of a collaborative project involving a number of partner organisations from across Europe and funded by the European Commission.

Tell ParliamentThe Hansard Society pioneered the use of online forums for parliamentary select commitees to take evidence from the public. Now an established feature of many select committee enquiries, in 2004 we ran five forums for Parliament on a variety of subjects and evaluated their effectiveness as an engagement option.

We found that citizens involved in the pilot felt that Parliament was a more responsive and effective institution than they had perceived it to be. The view from those within Parliament was that they were exposed to a broader range of evidence but the impact of the consultations on the decision-making processes of the committees was not always always clear cut.  

However, the evaluation revealed that conducting consultations online was not just a route to engage the ‘hard-to-reach’, but that it also appealed to those who are comfortable and experienced in participating through conventional structures.

For more information, read the Tell Parliament report.

Digital democracyOur work on the impact of digital technologies on politics began as early as 1999, when the internet was in its infancy, with the publication The Electronic Media, Parliament and the People: Making Democracy Visible.

Through our eDemocracy programme in the 2000s we were at the cutting edge of the debate around democracy in a digital age. Highlights of our research include: #futurenews, MPs Online and Digital Dialogues.

With technology now so pervasive in all aspects of society – including politics – much of our research incorporates digital elements rather than focusing on it separately. Visit the digital democracy page for more information.


Your Parliament: Make it work for youIt seems remarkable to imagine that at one time Parliament did not have a guidebook for visitors, but prior to 2004 there was little or no explanatory material for people coming to the Palace of Westminster.

This deficiency was noted as part of a Hansard Society research project looking at how Parliament engages with the public, and subsequently we produced the first booklet for visitors to explain what Parliament is and how it works, entitled Your Parliament: Make it work for you. The booklet is now of course out of date, but it spurred Parliament on to create a range of materials for itself, and the experience for visitors to the Palace now is vastly improved.

The title Your Parliament was adopted from one of the Hansard Society’s earliest ever engagement projects. From 1951 through to at least 1964 we published a beautifully illustrated booklet of the same name to explain to the public the workings of the UK political system.

Download Your Parliament (1964 edition).







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Press enquiries

For press enquiries, please contact:

020 7710 6080
020 7710 6077
07779 666 771

Research team

Dr Ruth Fox, Director and Head of Research

Joel Blackwell, Senior Researcher

Scholars Programme dates

Dates for upcoming programmes:

Spring 2016
January 16 - April 23
Fee: £10,250.

Summer 2016
May 21 - July 16
Fee: £6200.

Autumn 2016
September 3 - December 10
Fee: £10,500.

Click here to apply

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