Democratic Innovations From Around the World: Lessons for the West

Report by Richard Youngs, and Ken Godfrey: “Recent initiatives for fostering citizen participation in Europe, Australia, and Canada have attracted much attention, especially selection-based “mini-publics”—of which one form, citizens’ assemblies, has become increasingly popular. Yet new forms of participation have also emerged in other countries and regions around the world. Like the innovations in Western democracies, these are far from perfect, but they offer valuable insights for those concerned with widening the pathways to democratic participation within Western states. The European Democracy Hub ran a project on democratic innovations outside the West in order to explore these lessons. This article synthesizes findings from the project by categorizing distinctive types of citizen participation from examples around the world and teasing out their policy implications…

With citizens’ frustration with and alienation from political elites becoming more widespread and severe around the world, as manifest in a rising number of significant antigovernment protests globally, the need for innovative channels of citizen participation has become more pressing. Despite the powerful global dynamics of democratic regression, many positive forms of such participation have taken shape in the last several years. Indeed, many analysts detect that a new ethos of citizen participation is defining efforts to push back against democratic decay.

Selection-based mini-publics are establishing an especially impressive track record as one form of citizen participation. These forums choose citizens by lot to deliberate on certain policy issues. In the West, this sortition template—now routinely implemented with highly sophisticated techniques of stratified selection to ensure representation from diverse sectors of society—is seen as the gold standard of participation, as it gives all citizens an equal chance to participate and ensures debates are highly structured around preset remits or elaborate formal institutional processes….(More)”.