Research Anthology on Citizen Engagement and Activism for Social Change

Book by the Information Resources Management Association (IRMA): “Activism and the role everyday people play in making a change in society are increasingly popular topics in the world right now, especially as younger generations begin to speak out. From traditional protests to activities on college campuses, to the use of social media, more individuals are finding accessible platforms with which to share their views and become more actively involved in politics and social welfare. With the emergence of new technologies and a spotlight on important social issues, people are able to become more involved in society than ever before as they fight for what they believe. It is essential to consider the recent trends, technologies, and movements in order to understand where society is headed in the future.

The Research Anthology on Citizen Engagement and Activism for Social Change examines a plethora of innovative research surrounding social change and the various ways citizens are involved in shaping society. Covering topics such as accountability, social media, voter turnout, and leadership, it is an ideal work for activists, sociologists, social workers, politicians, public administrators, sociologists, journalists, policymakers, social media analysts, government administrators, academicians, researchers, practitioners, and students….(More)”.

Whistleblowing for Change: Exposing Systems of Power and Injustice

Open Access book edited by Tatiana Bazzichelli: “The courageous acts of whistleblowing that inspired the world over the past few years have changed our perception of surveillance and control in today’s information society. But what are the wider effects of whistleblowing as an act of dissent on politics, society, and the arts? How does it contribute to new courses of action, digital tools, and contents? This urgent intervention based on the work of Berlin’s Disruption Network Lab examines this growing phenomenon, offering interdisciplinary pathways to empower the public by investigating whistleblowing as a developing political practice that has the ability to provoke change from within…(More)”.

CoFoE: deliberative democracy more accountable than elections and polls

Article by Eleonora Vasques: “Deliberative democracy processes are more democratic than general elections or surveys, according to Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) participants and experts of the second panel on democracy gathered in Florence last weekend.

CoFoE is a deliberative democracy experiment where 800 citizens, divided into four thematic panels, deliberate recommendations to discuss and vote on with lawmakers.

The panel on European democracy, values, rights, the rule of law, and security, recently approved 39 recommendations on anti-discrimination, democracy, the rule of law, EU institutional reforms, the building of a European identity, and the strengthening of citizen participation.

“Usually, the way we try to understand what people think is through elections or opinion polls. However, I think both methods are biased. They rather ‘freeze’ a debate, imposing the discussion, without asking people what they want. Thus, it is good that people here speak about their own will. And they do not necessarily use the same categories utilised by electoral campaigns and opinion polls,” Oliver Roy, professor at the European University Institute and one of the panel experts, told journalists…

Similarly, citizens selected for this panel believe that this democratic exercise is more valuable than mainstream political participation.

“I feel I am living a unique democratic experiment, which goes beyond the majority rule. Democracy is often understood only as a majority rule exercise, with elections. But here, we are demonstrating that democracy is about debating, sharing general ideas from the bottom up that can have an impact,” Max, a participant from Slovakia, told EURACTIV…(More)”.

Prisms of the People

Book by Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa: “Grassroots organizing and collective action have always been fundamental to American democracy but have been burgeoning since the 2016 election, as people struggle to make their voices heard in this moment of societal upheaval. Unfortunately much of that action has not had the kind of impact participants might want, especially among movements representing the poor and marginalized who often have the most at stake when it comes to rights and equality. Yet, some instances of collective action have succeeded. What’s the difference between a movement that wins victories for its constituents, and one that fails? What are the factors that make collective action powerful?

Prisms of the People addresses those questions and more. Using data from six movement organizations—including a coalition that organized a 104-day protest in Phoenix in 2010 and another that helped restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in Virginia—Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa show that the power of successful movements most often is rooted in their ability to act as  “prisms of the people,” turning participation into political power just as prisms transform white light into rainbows. Understanding the organizational design choices that shape the people, their leaders, and their strategies can help us understand how grassroots groups achieve their goals.

Linking strong scholarship to a deep understanding of the needs and outlook of activists, Prisms of the People is the perfect book for our moment—for understanding what’s happening and propelling it forward….(More)”.

Will data improve governance? It depends on the questions we ask

Essay by Uma Kalkar, Andrew Young and Stefaan Verhulst in the Quaterly Inquiry of the Development Intelligence Lab: “…What are the key takeaways from our process and how does it relate to the Summit for Democracy? First, good questions serve as the bedrock for effective and data-driven decision-making across the governance ecosystem. Second, sourcing multidisciplinary and global experts allow us to paint a fuller picture of the hot-button issues and encourage a more nuanced understanding of priorities. Lastly, including the public as active participants in the process of designing questions can help to increase the legitimacy of and obtain a social impact for data efforts, as well as tap into the collective intelligence that exists across society….

A key focus for world leaders, civil society members, academics, and private sector representatives at the Summit for Democracy should not only be on how to promote open governance by democratising data and data science. It must also consider how we can democratise and improve the way we formulate and prioritise questions facing society. To paraphrase Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes”….(More)”.

Eight ways to institutionalise deliberative democracy

OECD Report: “This guide for public officials and policy makers outlines eight models for institutionalising representative public deliberation to improve collective decision making and strengthen democracy.

Increasingly, public authorities are reinforcing democracy by making use of deliberative processes in a structural way, beyond one-off initiatives that are often dependent on political will. The guide provides examples of how to create structures that allow representative public deliberation to become an integral part of how certain types of public decisions are taken.

Eight models to consider for implementation:

1. Combining a permanent citizens’ assembly with one-off citizens’ panels

2. Connecting representative public deliberation to parliamentary committees

3. Combining deliberative and direct democracy

4. Standing citizens’ advisory panels

5. Sequenced representative deliberative processes throughout the policy cycle

6. Giving people the right to demand a representative deliberative process

7. Requiring representative public deliberation before certain types of public decisions

8. Embedding representative deliberative processes in local strategic planning…(More)”.

Making Space for Everyone

Amy Paige Kaminski at Issues: “The story of how NASA came to see the public as instrumental in accomplishing its mission provides insights for R&D agencies trying to create societal value, relevance, and connection….Over the decades since, NASA’s approaches to connecting with citizens have evolved with the introduction of new information and communications technologies, social change, legal developments, scientific progress, and external trends in space activities and public engagement. The result has been an increasing and increasingly accessible set of opportunities that have enabled diverse segments of society to connect more closely with NASA’s work and, in turn, boost the agency’s techno-scientific and societal value….

Another significant change in public engagement practices has been providing more people with opportunities to do space-related R&D. Through the shuttle program, the agency enabled companies, universities, high schools, and an eclectic set of participants ranging from artists to garden seed companies to develop and fly payloads. The stated purpose was to advance knowledge of the effects of the space environment—a concept that was sometimes loosely defined. 

Today NASA similarly encourages a broad set of players to use the International Space Station (ISS) for R&D. While some of the shuttle and ISS programs have charged fees to payload owners, NASA has instead offered grants, primarily to the university community, for competitively selected research projects in space science. The agency also invites various groups to propose experiments and technology development projects through government-wide programs such as the Small Business Innovative Research program, which aims to foster innovation in small businesses, as well as the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (better known by its EPSCoR acronym), which seeks to enhance research infrastructure and competitiveness at the state level….(More)”.

Data Portals and Citizen Engagement

Series of blogs by Tim Davies: “Portals have been an integral part of the open data movement. They provided a space for publishing and curation of data for governments (usually), and a space to discover and access data for users (often individuals, civil society organisations or sometimes private sector organisations building services or deriving insights from this data). 

While many data portals are still maintained, and while some of them enable access to a sizeable amount of data, portals face some big questions in the decade ahead:

  1. Are open data portals still fit for purpose (and if so, which purpose)?
  2. Do open data portals still “make sense” in this decade, or are they a public sector anomaly in a context when data lakes, data meshes, data platforms are adopted across industry? Is there a minimum viable spec for a future-proof open data “portal”?
  3. What roles and activities have emerged around data platforms and portals that deserve to be codified and supported by the future type of platforms?
  4. Could re-imagined open data “platforms” create change in the role of the public service organisation with regards to data (from publisher to… steward?)?
  5. How can a new generation of portals or data platforms better support citizen engagement and civic participation?
  6. What differences are there between the private and public approaches, and why? Does any difference introduce any significant dynamics in private / public open data ecosystems?…(More)”.

Sharing Student Data Across Public Sectors: Importance of Community Engagement to Support Responsible and Equitable Use

Report by CDT: “Data and technology play a critical role in today’s education institutions, with 85 percent of K-12 teachers anticipating that online learning and use of education technology at their school will play a larger role in the future than it did before the pandemic.  The growth in data-driven decision-making has helped fuel the increasing prevalence of data sharing practices between K-12 education agencies and adjacent public sectors like social services. Yet the sharing of personal data can pose risks as well as benefits, and many communities have historically experienced harm as a result of irresponsible data sharing practices. For example, if the underlying data itself is biased, sharing that information exacerbates those inequities and increases the likelihood that potential harms fall disproportionately on certain communities. As a result, it is critical that agencies participating in data sharing initiatives take steps to ensure the benefits are available to all and no groups of students experience disproportionate harm.

A core component of sharing data responsibly is proactive, robust community engagement with the group of people whose data is being shared, as well as their surrounding community. This population has the greatest stake in the success or failure of a given data sharing initiative; as such, public agencies have a practical incentive, and a moral obligation, to engage them regarding decisions being made about their data…

This paper presents guidance on how practitioners can conduct effective community engagement around the sharing of student data between K-12 education agencies and adjacent public sectors. We explore the importance of community engagement around data sharing initiatives, and highlight four dimensions of effective community engagement:

  • Plan: Establish Goals, Processes, and Roles
  • Enable: Build Collective Capacity
  • Resource: Dedicate Appropriate People, Time, and Money
  • Implement: Carry Out Vision Effectively and Monitor Implementation…(More)”.

What Biden’s Democracy Summit Is Missing

Essay by Hélène Landemore: “U.S. President Joe Biden is set to host a virtual summit this week for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss the renewal of democracy. We can expect to see plenty of worthy yet predictable issues discussed: the threat of foreign agents interfering in elections, online disinformation, political polarization, and the temptation of populist and authoritarian alternatives. For the United States specifically, the role of money in politics, partisan gerrymandering, endless gridlock in Congress, and the recent voter suppression efforts targeting Black communities in the South should certainly be on the agenda.

All are important and relevant topics. Something more fundamental, however, is needed.

The clear erosion of our political institutions is just the latest evidence, if any more was needed, that it’s past time to discuss what democracy actually means—and why we should care about it. We have to question, moreover, whether the political systems we have are even worth restoring or if we should more substantively alter them, including through profound constitutional reforms.

Such a discussion has never been more vital. The systems in place today once represented a clear improvement on prior regimes—monarchies, theocracies, and other tyrannies—but it may be a mistake to call them adherents of democracy at all. The word roughly translates from its original Greek as “people’s power.” But the people writ large don’t hold power in these systems. Elites do. Consider that in the United States, according to a 2014 study by the political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, only the richest 10 percent of the population seems to have any causal effect on public policy. The other 90 percent, they argue, is left with “democracy by coincidence”—getting what they want only when they happen to want the same thing as the people calling the shots.

This discrepancy between reality—democracy by coincidence—and the ideal of people’s power is baked in as a result of fundamental design flaws dating back to the 18th century. The only way to rectify those mistakes is to rework the design—to fully reimagine what it means to be democratic. Tinkering at the edges won’t do….(More)”