Renovating Democracy for the Digital Age Project Convenes in Montreal

By Tom Cohen

In September, the Berggruen Institute’s Renovating Democracy for the Digital Age Project re-convened in Montreal, Canada to discuss and present findings at the Global Progress Summit. The project, led by Berggruen Institute Executive Vice President Dawn Nakagawa and Global Progress Founder Matt Browne, was launched in 2016. It has spent the last year meeting with experts and organizing round tables in order to better understand the challenges democratic institutions face with the rise of digital communication technologies. One of the goals of the project, according to Berggruen Institute Chairman Nicolas Berggruen, is “to restore trust and a shared future beyond addressing short term issues.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Berggruen Institute Chairman Nicolas Berggruen

At the Global Progress Summit, the Berggruen Institute hosted a panel discussion on the topic which included, Steve Huffman (CEO, Reddit), Arianna Huffington (Founder, The Huffington Post & Thrive Global), Reid Hoffman (Founder, LinkedIn), and Nikos Pappas (Digital Minister, Greece). The panel explored the challenges to democracy in the 21st century and how technology companies, governments, and individuals can work together to address them. During the discussion, Arianna Huffington advocated self-regulation over government regulation as the solution to the problem, saying: “We are drowning in data and information, but starved for wisdom.” Reid Hoffman explained the limits of what tech companies are comfortable with in how they make determinations about what people can and cannot post on social media.

Following the panel discussion, the Institute hosted a closed roundtable that included the panelists, leaders from Canada and Europe, leading research and policy experts, and digital activists including Evan Spiegel (Founder, Snap), Frans Timmermans (First Vice President, European Commission), Lodewijk Asscher (Deputy Prime Minister, the Netherlands), Maria Elena Boschi (Secretary of State of Italy), Vinny Green (Co-owner & Vice President of Snopes), Jerry Kaplan (Stanford University), Ben Rattray (Founder & President, Change.org), and Nicolas Berggruen. During this discussion, the Project team unveiled their emerging solution set and shared their findings with the roundtable and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This includes suggestions for strengthening democracy and rebuilding the public square, and a blueprint for how nations and governments can improve the quality of discourse online with the purpose of promoting social stability. You can find the solution set here.
Arianna Huffington, Nikos Pappas, and Dawn Nakagawa

This solution set marks the mid-point of the project and is a product of twelve months of exploration and discussion with leading technologists, policymakers, activists, journalists, and academics.  For the next phase, the Berggruen Institute will expand the geographic bounds of this exploration to gather feedback from constituents of other democracies while also focusing on further developing a few of the more promising ideas. The Project Team is comprised of Ariel Ratner (Inside Revolution), Ola Tjornbo (Archipelago Consultants), and Jody Sadornas (Berggruen Institute).