Five Democracy Ideas That Are Inspiring Us

September 15, 2023
Photo of a session at the OGP 2023 Summit taken by Mihkel Leis

Here at the Centre, we are deeply embedded in a number of initiatives and communities that are working to strengthen democratic resilience.

Democracies around the world are increasingly being challenged by the erosion of public trust in institutions, the spread of disinformation, rising populist and authoritarian messaging, and the scapegoating of marginalized communities in times of crisis. 

Here Are Five Ideas About Democracy That Inspire the Work We Do:

1. Democracy Starts with Belonging

The Centre’s 2019 national poll on Canadian democracy showed that when people feel connected to their communities, they are more committed to upholding democratic values in their lives and work. This is why we strive to center relationship-building in all the work we do. 

2. Strong Democracies Engage Communities in Decision-making

Data from the OECD demonstrates that public participation in decision-making is a strong driver of trust in in government. It is important for people to feel like they have a say in decisions that impact their lives, and to see that their government is responsive to public consultations.

3. Democracy is Built by Everyone

Governments cannot solve the crisis of democracy alone. Rather, as Hendriks, Ercan and Boswell describe in their book, Mending Democracy, it takes the “small-scale, localized efforts to renew democracy that are being pushed along by…elected officials, citizens, community groups, activists and public administrators." We all have a part to play.

4. Democracy Continually Reinvents Itself

Democracies need to continually adapt to emerging issues, changing societies and new technologies while upholding core values. For example, the Centre is researching how to update land-use public hearings and is championing innovative models for public participation such as citizens’ assemblies that use a lottery system to select representative groups of participants.

5. We Learn Democracy by Living It

Civic education is another cornerstone for strong democracies. Citizens need opportunities to learn how their governments work, how decisions are made and how to engage in a range of democratic processes. We are especially inspired by experiential learning initiatives such as CityHive’s programsparticipatory budgeting in schools and the Semester in Dialogue.

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