Power to the people

Helping organisations to lobby more effectively in a context of democratic change

Unelected lobby groups play an important role in liberal democratic states, including the UK.

They provide much-needed expertise to generalist politicians, increase the representation of marginalised groups, and represent a bridge between citizens and institutions.

However, existing outside formal democratic checks and balances, they are unelected and suffer a legitimacy deficit, and often disproportionately confer power on wealthy individuals and organisations.

Building on research dating back to 2007, Dr Parvin’s research analyses these tensions while establishing the role of lobby groups in democratic societies.

Our impact

UK Government lobbying policy

  • Dr Parvin’s definition of lobbying was adopted by the 2008 Select Committee inquiry into the issue.
  • His research influenced the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (2014).

Shaping the environment and increasing understanding

  • The research has enhanced Government understanding of the UK’s £1.9 billion public affairs industry, leading to improved regulatory standards and greater transparency within the industry.
  • It has played a significant role in establishing regulatory codes of conduct and ethical guidelines used by more than 2,000 professional public affairs consultants and in-house lobbyists.

Influencing think tanks, lobby groups and trade unions

  • The Association for Professional Political Consultants acknowledged the impact of Parvin’s work on the role and conduct of UK public affairs professionals.
  • Parvin’s work helped the Publishers Association to advocate and protect the industry against, for example, online piracy and copyright reform
  • Prompted by Parvin’s work, people working for the trade union Prospect have changed their professional practice.
  • Drawing on the research, the New Economics Foundation changed its practices, and the Sydney Policy Lab realigned the way it communicates with other policy actors and external partners.

The research

Dr Parvin’s work analyses how social and political change have affected the role of lobbyists and their practice.

He has highlighted that changing patterns of citizen participation have increased the centrality of lobby groups and changed their internal structure – becoming less reliant on activist members and reorganising themselves as professionalised, hierarchical interest groups.

His work also explores the impact of economic inequality on the representation of marginalised groups by lobbying organisations, and the implications of unequal representation and political activity for democratic equality, inclusion, and decision making.

Adopting an emerging research approach, normative ethnography, he draws on both empirical data and the lived experience of political actors. This enables the impact of his work to flow in both directions – influencing both theory and, crucially, practice.

Research funders

  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Meet the experts