This week, associate Network member Hollie Russon-Gilman shared “three civic engagement models that can help bring the voices of everyday citizens into public life” in a piece for Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article, “The Moment for Participatory Democracy,” explores examples of 1) giving citizens government data (e.g., What Works Cities); 2) giving citizens a direct line to their representatives (e.g., Crown Townhall); and giving citizens a seat at the table:
“There are also several promising models for citizens to serve as co-producers of policy. Participatory budgeting, for example, lets community residents allocate a portion of taxpayer dollars to public projects. New York City—supported by the Participatory Budgeting Project, and Community Voices Heard—is home to the largest participatory budgeting effort to date and recently enabled online voting for projects.
Another promising model is the Citizens’ Jury method, pioneered by the Jefferson Center. Three counties in rural Minnesota are using this method as a foundation for Rural Climate Dialogues—regular gatherings where local residents hear from rural experts, work directly with their neighbors to design actionable community and policy recommendations, and share their feedback with public officials at a statewide meeting of rural Minnesota citizens, state agency representatives, and nonprofit organizations. Participants also pledge to fulfill local action to mitigate climate change. One participant says, ‘Before I was a part of these events, I really didn’t think there was anything I could do about [climate change]. I was always just one of those who thought, “It’s too big of an issue. It’s happening. My hands are tied.” [By participating in] these events, I realize that there are things we can do, even me personally, my community.’”