The Guardian. The People Trying to Save Democracy from Itself

by Patric Chalmers, The Guardian, Saturday 2 July 2016

These are difficult days for democracy. European nations struggle to elect governments on low turnouts. Populists wielding half-truths go from strength to strength. Facts are a devalued currency, personalities never more important.

People use ballot boxes to bloody the noses of the political elite. Young people are particularly jaded. Late adopters such as Russia and Turkey are turning their backs.

In its original sense, rule by the people, democracy seems to be in retreat.

Perhaps because of this, or in spite of it, experiments in new manifestations of democracy are proliferating. And some may offer a more tangible experience for ordinary people than the remote, mundane exercise of voting for a stranger once every four or five years.


Extract from the article:

Citizen juries

Who: NewDemocracy

What: Randomly selected groups of citizens deliberate on complex policy issues

Where: Various Australian states

How: Political powers undertake to engage with the process

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, son of the wealthy Australian industrialist Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, got tired of being asked constantly for campaign donations to political parties. So he walked out of a fundraising dinner in 2005, and set up an organisation, NewDemocracy, to test out the use of citizen juries in deliberating policy.

“It sounds counter-intuitive to say that what’s wrong with democracy is voting,” says Iain Walker, executive director. “But once you get introduced to the concept, to say that democracy is the taking of public decisions that reflect the informed general will of the people, you start to realise that our current, electorally based democracies don’t do that tremendously well.”

Juries broadly represent their communities, just as in criminal trials, quite the opposite of politicians who emerge via elections. Groups deliberate the issue before them, taking evidence and calling on experts before drafting recommendations.

Their outputs are the polar opposite of opinion polls, the fruits of 40-hour, in-person deliberations versus pollsters’ four-minute phone calls. Findings enjoy public trust in a similar way to jury verdicts, making them harder for politicians to ignore. Work to date has tackled transport networks, energy generation options, obesity and managing Sydney’s and Adelaide’s nightlife.

The full article HERE

Scroll to top