Three shifts we’ll make, to repower democracy

To realise our goal of repowering democracy, and to really consider how we can contribute to mitigating the worst aspects of the climate crisis, we need to change how we do things.

We’ll base these shifts on what we’ve learned over the past two decades; a recognition of the scale of the crises we face; and an understanding of how we might be part of a bigger solution.

The three interlinked strategic shifts that we need to make as an organisation are:

Shift #1:
Design for the needs of society, not just provide tools for individual citizens.
Shift #2:
Place more power in more people’s hands, not just make old power more accountable.
Shift #3:
Prise open institutions, so they are better able to support and embrace meaningful participation.

Shift #1: Design for the needs of society

Building digital services for individual action has been a big part of our work to date, but we recognise that this isn’t enough to address the really big problems we face.

We need to better understand not just individual citizens’ needs, but the needs of communities as a whole.

Designing for society’s shared problems means understanding the wider system of potential partners and collaborators, assessing who has power and how it is exercised, understanding where tools and services might play a role, or where it might make more sense to amplify the efforts of others.

Undertaking this process will lead to engaged and informed systems of partners and collaborators who understand which tools are available to them to shift or create new power; who are able to radically imagine and deliver new ways of working together to tackle the pressing crises of democracy and climate.

Delivering for the needs of society sets the stage for meaningful participation by citizens and communities, especially those that are underrepresented or less likely to engage in democratic processes.

From picking a problem > to understanding needs
From user needs > to community and societal needs
From individual services > to enabling people to organise
From suppliers and beneficiaries > to partnerships and coalitions
From pre-packaged solutions > to being led by experimentation

Shift #2: More power in more people’s hands

It’s not enough just to hold power to account: instead we need to change how power is distributed and how it is exercised.

Getting more power into more people’s hands means creating more opportunities for meaningful participation in decision making; helping people to organise together to come up with solutions that work for all sectors of society.

We’ll contribute to this by drawing upon established communities of practice around our current programmes, so that people are able to work together for collaborative democracy and climate action at scale.

We will seek opportunities to work in coalition with partners to digitally supercharge their campaigning, mobilising and advocacy, through a repowering of democratic participation, so that we can better achieve our outcomes by working with others – leading to improved decision-making and sustained long-term participation and new impactful partnerships.

From holding power to account > to exercising new forms of power
From individual actions > to collaborative movements
From incremental change > to transformative shifts
From sharing information > to solution building
From calling for action > to helping drive change

Shift #3: Prise open institutions for meaningful participation

Thinking about how we put more power in more people’s hands leads us to consider where power lies and how much leverage we have to redistribute this power or create new forms of complementary power.

Public institutions hold a lot of power, within large and often rigid bureaucracies that struggle to shift their own behaviours quickly. Any meaningful repowering of democracy to make it work better for citizens, with deeper participation and greater accountability, can only be achieved with the consent and collaboration of these existing institutions.

Putting more power in people’s hands needs to be matched with the prising open of institutions so that they are capable of welcoming and supporting greater participation in decision making. Through our research and civic technology work, and through working with allies and agents of change inside of institutions, using evidence-based approaches, we will advocate for significant long-term policy shifts in how citizens and communities can meaningfully shape decision-making.

When central and local government are better able to engage with and involve citizens and communities in decisions that affect them and facilitate solutions coming from communities themselves we’ll know we’re getting this right – because greater participation between institutions and diverse representative groups of citizens leads to better outcomes.

From project based research > to influencing policy change
From outside critique > to driving institutional change
From calling for change > to enabling citizen participation
From accepting balance of power > to prising open institutions
From highlighting failure > to forcing changes to be made

What these three shifts represent

Together these three shifts represent HOW we plan to change as an organisation to be better able to contribute to a repowering of democracy.

Next: Behaviours we’ll adopt to better repower democracy.

Image: Sandro Katalina