Innovation Can Reboot American Democracy

Blog by Suzette Brooks Masters: “A thriving multiracial pluralist democracy is an aspiration that many people share for America. Far from being inevitable, the path to such a future is uncertain.

To stretch how we think about American democracy’s future iterations and begin to imagine the contours of the new, we need to learn from what’s emergent. So I’m going to take you on a whirlwind tour of some experiments taking place here and abroad that are the bright spots illuminating possible futures ahead.

My comments are informed by a research report I wrote last year called Imagining Better Futures for American Democracy. I interviewed dozens of visionaries in a range of fields and with diverse perspectives about the future of our democracy and the role positive visioning and futures thinking could play in reinvigorating it.

As I discuss these bright spots, I want to emphasize that what is most certain now is the accelerating and destabilizing change we are experiencing. It’s critical therefore to develop systems, institutions, norms and mindsets to navigate that change boldly and responsibly, not pretend that tomorrow will continue to look like today.

Yet when paradigms shift, as they inevitably do and I would argue are right now, that’s a messy and confusing time that can cause lots of anxiety and disorientation. During these critical periods of transition, we must set aside or ‘hospice” some assumptions, mindsets, practices, and institutions, while midwifing, or welcoming in, new ones.

This is difficult to do in the best of times but can be especially so when, collectively, we suffer from a lack of imagination and vision about what American democracy could and should become.

It’s not all our fault — inertia, fear, distrust, cynicism, diagnosis paralysis, polarization, exceptionalism, parochialism, and a pervasive, dystopian media environment are dragging us down. They create very strong headwinds weakening both our appetite and our ability to dream bigger and imagine better futures ahead.

However, focusing on and amplifying promising innovations can change that dysfunctional dynamic by inspiring us and providing blueprints to act upon when the time is right.

Below I discuss two main types of innovations in the political sphere: election-related structural reforms and governance reforms, including new forms of civic engagement and government decision-making…(More)”.