Visions for Justice: Conversation 3 — Democracy Beyond Elections

Visions for Justice: A conversation series on participatory practice. Democracy Beyond Elections.

This is the third conversation in our Visions for Justice discussion series. Every other week, we will be examining key issues for justice as it relates to participatory practices by learning from organizers on the ground who are reimagining public safety, centering community-led decision-making, and divesting from systems that harm us to invest in thriving communities.

Democracy Beyond Elections (DBE) is a new collaborative campaign dedicated to transformative democracy rooted in community led decision making. This means the communities should have equitable, accessible, and significant decision-making power – between and beyond elections.

In this conversation, we heard from Elizabeth Crews, PBP's Director of Democracy Beyond Elections, Alderwoman Maria Hadden of Chicago's 49th Ward, Laurel Wales from People's Action, and PBP Executive Director Shari Davis.

The panelists explored how building true democratic practices into the fabric of decisions in our communities gets us closer to a more just future.

As Shari Davis pointed out, “elections are important, but it’s the work that happens beyond and between elections that really shapes what happens in a community.”

Laurel Wales added that “when you start to hear over and over again that ‘my vote doesn't matter, my vote doesn’t count,’ or ‘I don’t actually see the ways decisionmakers that get elected truly represent the hopes, dreams, values, and visions that I have for my community’, it’s really hard to sell the idea that the only and best way to participate in democracy is through voting. And so, I see [Democracy Beyond Elections as a project] that deeply, deeply defines how people can take power back in their own communities.”

As an elected official, Alderwoman Hadden shared that she constantly asks herself, “how can I continue to empower people to advocate for themselves and to understand the actual power that they have as residents?” and pointed to participatory democracy as something that helps people get involved and understand how things work, and empower community voices.

 

It’s important to change the “us vs. them” narrative into an “us” narrative, building sustainable partnerships and relationships, and having people feel empowered to continue engaging with the decision-making processes that affect them and their neighbors.

 

Elizabeth shared DBE’s insights on participatory democracies around the world through case studies that point out the effectiveness of policy juries in countries like Ireland, or the use of technology for accessibility in countries like Spain, as well as insights into how we might move towards effective participatory policy making in the United States.

Make sure to tune into the whole conversation to learn more about the panelist’s learnings and experiences in enacting participatory policy-making and the Democracy Beyond Elections campaign.

If you found this conversation interesting, there’s more! Join us every other Wednesday at 7pm ET / 4 pm PT for an intentional and cross-movement conversation series about how we can meet the demands for justice in this moment, how participatory practices bring us closer to radically different realities, and how we can grow and build together.

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