Recentering Democracy Framing The Discussion


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Opening comments at the Recentering Democracy Around Citizens conference, February 16, 2010, Cantigny Conference Center, Wheaton, IL. Conference organized by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, hosted by the McCormick Foundation.

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Recentering Democracy Framing The Discussion

  1. 1. Recentering Democracy around Citizens McCormick Foundation Deliberative Democracy Consortium Cantigny Conference Center Wheaton, Illinois February 16-18, 2010
  2. 2. In other words, he thinks he’s Stephen Colbert
  3. 3. In other words, he thinks he’s Stephen Colbert Rachael Ray
  4. 4. <ul><li>What is recentering? </li></ul><ul><li>What is democracy? </li></ul><ul><li>What are citizens? </li></ul>Recentering Democracy around Citizens
  5. 5. …which brings us to tonight’s word
  6. 6. Democracy = Governance + Community?
  7. 7. Democracy = Just, Equitable, Deliberative Governance + Inclusive, Intensive Community?
  8. 8. Democracy = Discovering, Deliberating, Deciding + Dining, Drinking, Dancing?
  9. 9. Quick, stop him before he has an alliteration overdose
  10. 10. “ Engagement” and “Involvement” <ul><li>Often used interchangeably – along with many other terms </li></ul><ul><li>Definitions always fuzzy </li></ul><ul><li>Knight/Soul of the Community definition somewhat broader </li></ul>
  11. 11. I will use “involvement” to mean: <ul><li>Large, diverse critical mass of people (or sometimes a representative sample) </li></ul><ul><li>Size (of group) matters </li></ul><ul><li>Process matters – facilitation, guides, personal experience, range of views </li></ul><ul><li>Different levels of action: volunteerism, small-group change, organizational change, policy change </li></ul>
  12. 12. Two contexts for involvement <ul><li>Temporary efforts (the benefits are enjoyed by a large number of people but for a short period of time) </li></ul><ul><li>Permanent structures (the benefits are enjoyed for a longer period of time but by a smaller number of people) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Humor him – he only has control of this meeting for ten more minutes
  14. 14. <ul><li>Reason #1: </li></ul><ul><li>Because current practices of involvement can “work” – but are usually not sustainable </li></ul><ul><li>( So recentered democracy = sustained involvement) </li></ul>Why even try to “recenter” democracy?
  15. 15. “Works” = Matt continues to have a job
  16. 16. <ul><li>Reason #2: </li></ul><ul><li>Because current practices of involvement are inequitable </li></ul><ul><li>( So recentered democracy = more equitable involvement, with more equitable outcomes) </li></ul>Why even try to “recenter” democracy?
  17. 17. <ul><li>Reason #3: </li></ul><ul><li>Because current practices of involvement can’t easily be ‘scaled up’ to state and federal issues </li></ul><ul><li>( So recentered democracy = national democracy) </li></ul>Why even try to “recenter” democracy?
  18. 18. <ul><li>Reason #4: </li></ul><ul><li>Because community attachment has benefits – and ‘politics as usual’ may reduce attachment </li></ul><ul><li>( So recentered democracy = more proactive approach to community) </li></ul>Why even try to “recenter” democracy?
  19. 19. <ul><li>Reason #5: </li></ul><ul><li>Because people want political legitimacy </li></ul><ul><li>( So recentered democracy = public happiness) </li></ul>Why even try to “recenter” democracy?
  20. 20. “Public happiness” = How you felt after the third glass of wine at the reception last night
  21. 21. Why talk about “recentering” now? <ul><li>Changes in what citizens want and can do </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in technology </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing inadequacy (due to 1 and 2) of “politics as usual” – frustrations of leaders as well as citizens </li></ul>
  22. 22. Potential ingredients of robust, ‘recentered’ local democracy: <ul><ul><li>Strong tradition of involvement in decision-making and problem-solving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal, governmental structures, support, and legitimacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thriving online community that is connected to geography </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Abundant social/cultural/political offerings </li></ul></ul>