Byron has a reputation for highly engaged community groups which can, at times, make it difficult to establish community-wide perspectives and can lead to public discourse that is highly fractious. Making trusted public decisions is arguably harder in Byron than in almost any other council across Australia. Apathy is not a problem we need to fix here.
More broadly, democracy around the world is under stress, as people misunderstand the need for trade-offs, instead craving easy answers. It is easy to fall prey to this – taking tough public decisions is increasingly difficult in any context.
Uniting these two themes, we see an opportunity to jointly develop a much wider collaborative model of democracy that is much more appropriate for Byron but expected to be of interest far more widely. Designing a model of public decision making that takes into account the active and passive voices in the community and the broad context of the community will improve trust in decisions and the effectiveness in which the local council can act.
Our guiding parameters are a set of principles that we believe are core to a strong and fair democratic model and which have now been experienced firsthand by those in and around the Community Solutions Panel. The principles of representative balance, deliberation, authority, time, and diversity and depth in information being considered.
In developing a co-design process that focuses on these principles, newDemocracy and the Byron community can develop a trusted and contextualised model of democracy that will apply the lessons learned from the Community Solutions Panel.
This co-design process will involve sectors of the community in a process that fits within council parameters for budget and timelines which will be set from the outset.
Importantly, this is not another Community Solutions Panel. Instead, it is applying the lessons learned and using them to develop a model jointly with key stakeholders and community groups to let the positives Council experienced become the norm, not the exception.
newDemocracy will work with Byron Shire Council on a process that incorporates the deliberations of community members, stakeholders and councillors. Bringing these three distinct groups together to co-design a model of democracy for the Byron community to test in a 2-year trial. This process will involve 21 members of the community, randomly selected and stratified to the demographics of the local community. They will meet on 6 occasions to learn and deliberate on what methods of involvement and what amount of power for community members works here in Byron.