sign on a lamppost with the text 'good news is coming'

I thought about doing one of those ‘year in review’ posts, but let’s be honest, it would probably be more for our benefit than anyone else’s. Instead, I thought it would be nice to counteract all the doom and gloom with a bit of positivity: a roundup of good democracy news, so to speak. I expect I’ll miss some off the list but it’s the holidays so bear with. In no particular order, here’s some good democracy stuff that happened in 2019.

Citizens’ assemblies as far as the eye can see

CAs have undoubtedly been a huge democratic development this year, with several having taken place already in the UK and many more planned. They’re being seen as a good supplement to democracy-as-usual with organisations using them to guide decisions on everything from climate change to facial recognition technology. Here’s a list of UK-based Citizens’ Assemblies in 2019.

Digital transformation train

Organisations are increasingly seeing the value in well-executed digital transformation – I swear I see a job posting for ‘digital transformation executive’ about once a week. This has plenty of good implications for citizens in terms of accessibility, service design and, of course, digital democracy. (Read about Essex County Council’s transformation digital change here.) This has led to some interesting projects and collaborations, like this one between Australia and Vietnam.

Democracy is good for your health

image of christmas greenery surrounding a sign saying 'happy new year'

The Lancet released a study in March with findings that citizens of democracies, particularly those that had access to free and fair elections, had fewer cases of HIV, cardiovascular problems, TB, and other causes of mortality. On a similar note, the WHO found that public participation in health-related decisions increases health equity.

Young people getting involved

I loved this story out of Pakistan in April: one of its most underserved provinces has partnered with the World Bank on a program that employs tech-savvy youth to come up with ways in which technology can boost economic growth. I’ve also heard the importance of the youth voice mentioned several times at events this year; my hope is that 2020 will bring more initiatives like Pakistan’s into play.

A year of democratic experiments

We had Macron’s Grand Débat in France; G1000 in Belgium; America in One Room in the States; Chatham House’s crowdsourced project on technology and democracy in Europe. Whether or not they’re successful (the Grand Débat was seen to fall flat of its potential) remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the value of deliberative democratic exercises is becoming more widely recognised.

I think 2020 will see more of these types of experiments taking place, certainly with some failures among them. My hope is that these won’t impede democratic progress; rather, other organisations will take the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes. Here’s to a year of democracy that is more open, transparent, accessible, and that values the collective wisdom of the public.

Happy holidays, everyone.