Social Innovation and Democracy
by John Esterle
The Deliberative Democracy Consortium and The Democracy Imperative have released a thoughtful, comprehensive report on the conference they hosted in New Hampshire this past July. Having attended that gathering, I appreciate the effort to synthesize what was learned and to share some things that have happened since. It’s worth checking out.
The appendix highlights two overarching themes/questions that animated the conference:
1) How do we move from diffuse democratic experiments to more just, comprehensive systems?
2) How do we educate and prepare citizens to be more effective participants in a just and deliberative democracy?
One innovative approach to answering those questions is found in a new article by Luz Santana and Dan Rothstein, co-directors of The Right Question Project (a TWI grantee), that appears in the latest issue of The Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.
The article highlights RQP’s microdemocracy concept, a framework I think holds much promise for addressing how we weave skills and processes essential to democratic practice — listening, inquiry, thoughtful decision-making, self-advocacy — into the fabric of our individual and community lives. I really like how the article uses a concrete, personal story to illustrate the power of an educational, skill-building approach that “meets people where they are.”
In doing so, it brings to mind something I continue to think about a lot: the importance of incorporating storytelling into civic engagement efforts right from the start if we want to leverage those efforts to affect a broader public discussion. Anyway, I’d be interested to hear from folks on that theme as it’s one I see us continuing to explore here at TWI.