A recent award of funding from the newDemocracy Foundation (nDF) will enable Democracy In Practice to conduct innovative empirical research into the way that communities experience change to their systems of government.

The research project, occurring under the auspices of Simon Fraser University in Canada and running from October 2015 to June 2016, will use Democracy In Practice’s student government-based projects as case studies to explore the shift from elected governments to those that are randomly selected and rotated. The research team will conduct empirical research to explore how various stakeholders – students, student government members, and teachers – experience and interpret the replacement of a hierarchical election-based student governance system with one based on random selection, rotation, and deliberation among equals. The projects that will be studied are now in their second year of operation in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

While the use of random selection to create more inclusive, representative and deliberative democracy has been a mainstay of democratic innovations around the globe, these innovations have largely been limited to temporary, one-off, complementary processes, and little is known about how these democratic structures would function as a standing feature of democratic governance. Research on the use of random selection in standing political bodies has to date been limited to theory, and so this empirical research project represents the first of its kind.

While taking place in a unique context, the results of the project will provide a first glimpse into the way that communities understand and respond to fundamental changes of this kind, as well as how the incorporation of random selection interacts with dynamic, pre-existing social and political contexts. With a growing interest in the possibilities of randomly selection for standing governing bodies, these insights will be a useful addition to existing knowledge on the real-world implementation of deliberative democratic innovations.

The funding comes as part of a broader effort by the newDemocracy Foundation to support research which contributes to active democratic innovation. The newDemocracy Foundation is an independent, non-partisan research organization aiming to identify improvements to the democratic process. Primarily, their work is dedicated to democratic innovation through conducting real-world trial projects of democratic alternatives. More information on nDF and their projects can be found at www.newdemocracy.com.au.

Results of the study will be made available on www.democracyinpractice.org.