The Speakers’ Corner project aims to promote freedom of speech, public debate and active citizenship as a means of revitalising civil society in the UK and supporting its development in emerging democracies.
SCT pursues its aims by forming local Speakers’ Corner Committees made up of representatives of the public, private and voluntary sectors which ‘own’ and steer projects designed to stimulate and support public discussion, debate and consultation on the issues which matter most to people.
Where appropriate, the Committees’ work may include establishing new Speakers’ Corners in public spaces as symbols of citizens’ rights, focuses for national or civic identity and platforms for public engagement.
But at the heart of each initiative lies a programme of events designed by the Speakers’ Corner Committee to reach every community in its area. Some may take place at the Speakers’ Corner; others will be organised in a range of venues, from Council Chambers to community centres, schools and places of work and worship. They could include debates led by interest groups, consultations mounted by public services or politicians or discussions stimulated by academics or others on subjects from the global to the national, regional, local and cultural.
Some may lead to greater public participation in decision-making and service delivery and an enhanced level of accountability and legitimacy in the democratic process; some may inspire practical community action at a local level; some may lead to improved understanding between or within communities. Some may be simply educative or enriching on a personal level.
The central principle in all these events is that they should be accessible to all, strictly non-partisan and non-adversarial, welcome diversity and seek to inform opinion, identify common ground – and, as often as possible, entertain.
SCT’s approach is based on the belief that association between citizens and the free, face-to-face exchange of ideas, information and opinions – with each other as well as with the decision-takers among them – is a key to rebuilding trust and participation in Britain’s civil society and developing vibrant civil institutions and robust rights in developing democracies.