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Jefferson Center on Making Our Democracy More Meaningful

NCDD Sponsor organization, The Jefferson Center, share a piece written by Annie Pottorff called “Americans are ready for more meaningful democracy”. The article lifts up the recent report published by Public Agenda that explored what Americans think about the current state of our democracy. We encourage you to read the article below and find the original version on JC’s site here.

Americans are ready for more meaningful democracy

Last week, the nonpartisan research and public engagement organization Public Agenda released new findings about what Americans thought about the state of democracy. The results weren’t exactly surprising: 39% say America’s democracy is “in crisis” and 42% say it’s facing serious challenges.

But on a more hopeful note, most believed that ordinary individuals can make a difference, especially if enough people get involved. They were excited about efforts just like ours, including participatory budgeting, community events, public surveys, online forums, and civics education.

When asked what would make them more likely to participate in one of these programs, they outlined a few key criteria. We couldn’t help but notice how our Citizens Juries and broader civic engagement hit the mark:

Respondents wanted programs that…

Seem genuine and likely to have real impacts

Participants in Citizens Juries, assemblies and community panels we conduct know from the outset their recommendations are going somewhere. Their findings are shared with the project sponsors, published online, and amplified through traditional and social media. We help advance local actions and guide policy development based on the recommendations.

Allow people to contribute their own skills and experiences to solving a problem

We recognize all participants as experts, and invite them to share their stories, experiences, and expertise with the group, a key supplement to the presentations and research supplied by expert witnesses. We also recognize communities we engage have existing resources and strong networks we can support to drive change.

Invite public officials to listen, contribute, and respond

Public officials are invited to contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways. In some cases, officials give stakeholder presentations and answer questions, like at the Flats Arterial Community Panel. At the Winona County Energy Dialogue, city council members and local energy leaders participated as Citizens Jurors, co-creating recommendations with their community. And at the Willmar Community Assembly, the mayor observed the event, listened to the recommendations, acknowledged their importance, and pledged to integrate into city practices.

One of our participants summed it up this way:

I would recommend [participating in a Citizens Jury] on three levels. One, the Jury’s made up of everyday people, not just professional people, but a wide demographic of people. Two, it was very fair, and everybody had a chance to participate, and three, you know, from what’s being said, that your input is being recorded and may play an important part in the final outcome in the future.

Reading the Public Agenda research, it’s clear that people like you are ready to get involved if genuinely meaningful opportunities are available. With your help, we’re doing just that by engaging individuals around the world to face our biggest challenges. Thank you for being part of the future of democracy!

Over the next few months we will be exploring ways to build awareness of and support for how governments and public officials can incorporate deliberative practices in their work and engagement practices. We look forward to sharing what we’re learning with you on the blog and in our newsletter.

You can find the original version of this post on The Jefferson Center site at https://jefferson-center.org/americans-are-ready-for-more-meaningful-democracy/

Keiva Hummel
Keiva Hummel serves as NCDD’s Communications Coordinator. She graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Global Peace, Human Rights and Justice Studies, and a Certificate in Conflict Resolution Studies.

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