Democracy Innovations on Capital HillDownload the pdf
The first annual international Legislators’ Forum on Innovations in Democracy was held in Washington, DC on November 16, 2022. Organized by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) and the Institute for Democratic Engagement & Accountability (IDEA) at the Ohio State University, the forum brought together a group of 12 US members of Congress, with senators, members of national parliaments, members of the EU Parliament, and other lawmakers from Brazil, Argentina, and elsewhere around the world. The meeting focused on strategies to engage citizens in productive, civil, and meaningful ways to strengthen democracy between elections. Participants shared findings and stories from their work and reflected on the recent experience of national elections in Brazil and the US. A growing body of research was presented to complement the discussions on democracy innovations, which were compiled in the Forum resource list.
The forum participants presented a diverse array of democracy innovation programs, initiatives, and structures. The Argentinian delegation presented their Open Law Portal, a platform that allows political parties to upload their draft initiatives and receive input and feedback from the public. Chris Shaw, Clerk to the House of Commons, discussed the Deliberative Town Halls by IDEA in the U.K., U.S. and other countries. Gabriele Bischoff, Member of the EU Parliament, described the deliberative plenaries involving 800 randomly selected EU citizens that were held as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Three Brazilian senators outlined the e-cidadania process, which has allowed 40 million citizens to suggest ideas for bills, sign petitions for bills they support, and participate remotely in public meetings and confirmation hearings. Forum participants also discussed citizens’ assemblies, AI-supported engagement tools, and other democracy innovations.
A growing body of research examines worldwide dissatisfaction with conventional forms of democracy as well as optimism about new democratic reforms. The Forum aimed to provide lawmakers from different countries with the opportunity to learn directly from their peers about some of these innovations and the research on their impacts and the contexts in which they work best. The Forum also aimed to strengthen connections between legislators in different countries who are advocates for democracy innovation, in addition to growing the research base.
In this report, Marjan Horst Ehsassi shares her observations from the Forum and her perspective on what must be done to bring about “a paradigm shift in democracy.”