Distrust continues to grow between the public and the institutions of self-government, and democratic values are under threat. Populism did not cause this crisis, but our democratic institutions emerged in an environment very different from our world of today. The emergence of a large, unregulated digital commons, where a customized media marketplace and combative dialogue thrives, and the failure of an insider establishment to address the dislocations of globalization and rapid technological change, have corroded the shared narratives and values that hold democratic societies together.
Within this crisis of democracy, however, is an opportunity. Citizens yearn for deeper connection to policy-making and their community, and digital technologies can provide it. Inviting the broader civil society into governance through new mediating institutions—such as citizen assemblies that complement representative government—can mend the breach between institutions and their people. We call this “participation without populism.”
Bringing together public leaders and thinkers, the Democratic Participation theme is reimagining democratic institutions to meet the challenges of the 21st century, placing the citizen at the center of the democratic process.