Democracy In Practice – In Context

While Democracy In Practice is innovating, contributing, and experimenting in ways and contexts that are unique, we nonetheless build on – and connect with – a number of other works, groups, and efforts. In this way, we are part of a broader context: of democratic experimentation, of innovative, creative, and critical approaches toward community decision-making, and of ways of experiencing democracy that differ from contemporary electoral politics. Our current focus on the random selection and rotation of decision-makers places us among others using similar tools to both increase the meaningful participation of everyday individuals in their own governance and develop decision-making practices that are more representative, more deliberative, and less vulnerable to manipulation by particular interests.

A variety of organizations and communities have advanced the political use and development of these practices. Since the 1970s, randomly selected Citizens’ Juries, Councils, Panels, Assemblies, and Parliaments have provided everyday people the opportunity to investigate and advise on political issues that range from healthcare cuts, to local water and transportation policy, to municipal budgets and even a national constitution.

A Citizens’ Jury in Australia administered by one of our partners, the newDemocracy Foundation

A Global Movement

These groups have been more common in Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe. A similar process – Deliberative Polling – has been practiced throughout Europe as well as in Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, and Macao. Other initiatives have seen these tools accompany actual decision-making power. The Green Party of Korea, for example, randomly selected all the members of their 2013 annual congress to decide the party’s budget and action plan for the following year. Since 2003, the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico have governed themselves with rotative ‘Good Government Councils’, with the goal of allowing all community-members (men, women, and youth) a turn as council member so as to increase familiarity with, and trust of, their government. Even though it often doesn’t make the headlines, there are many groups actively furthering this growing movement and there have been hundreds of noteworthy democratic experiments just over the past few decades. The interactive map below highlights a few that have inspired us, to give an idea of just how global the movement really is (and to show some other groups doing important work that you should follow, support, and plug into!).

Click on a colored dot and more information along with relevant links will appear below the map, and let us know if there is a community, organization, or event you think we should add!

Lily Communities that have experimented with innovative forms of democracy
Blue - Light Organizations dedicated to democratic innovation
Green - Light Citizens Juries/Panels/Assemblies
Yellow Deliberative Polls
Orange Other innovative initiatives

Global Movement Placeholder
Global Movement

Building on the Past

Our efforts might also be seen on an historical continuum, as neither random selection nor rotation is new. Both were fundamental to governance in Athens, Greece where the word “democracy” was first coined around 2,500 years ago.

What did democracy really mean in Athens?
TED-Ed video by Melissa Schwartzberg

The rotation of everyday people in-and-out of leadership positions has also been a central practice in el Ayllu, a form of governance used in many rural Andean communities in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador since pre-Inca times. Random selection and rotation of decision-makers has also been central to the court jury system in many countries worldwide. Seen together, the modern initiatives above are indicative of a renewed interest in the transformative potential of these practices, as well as the emergence of a more creative approach to governance more generally. Democracy In Practice forms part of this creative present, learning from our experience and thereby working to contribute to a more democratic future.

For more information as well as news sources and recommended readings, check out the links in the sidebar!

Find out more!



News on Alternative Democratic Practices

openDemocracy Equality By Lot (blog)

Recommended Readings

Demarchy (pamphlet) by Brian Martin Random Selection in Politics by Lyn Carson and Brian Martin When the People Speak by James Fishkin Is Democracy Possible? by John Burnheim The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles, and Ideology by Mogens Herman Hansen

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Democracy In Practice
Democracy In Practice