A Different Kind of Democracy: Reimagining Civic Participation

October 30th, 2018
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM

The Sentinel
614 SW 11th Ave, 3rd floor
Portland, OR

You might have seen that infamous chart: the one from a 2016 public opinion survey where Americans rated the importance of living in a democracy. On the left are the WWII generation, in the middle the Boomers, on the right the Millennials. And there’s a line that falls dramatically left to right. Among Americans born in the 1980s, only about 30% said they that living in a democratic country is “essential.”

And it’s not just young folks. Our near-historic low-confidence in Congress, the courts, the schools, the press, and just about every other institution of our democracy mean something is clearly broken across the system.

But have hope! Necessity is the mother of invention, and new democratic inventions are popping up everywhere – in how we vote, in how we learn, in how we make decisions between elections, and in how we talk to one another across political divides. And one organization at the forefront of democratic innovation is based here in Portland: Healthy Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit that designs innovative public decision-making processes.

Healthy Democracy is best known for developing the Citizens’ Initiative Review, a process through which a panel of two-dozen randomly selected and demographically representative Oregon voters evaluates a ballot measure each election year and produces trustworthy voter information on the measure. In an intensive four-day jury-like setting, everyday folks quickly become experts on a complex policy issue – they hear advocate and expert testimony and collaboratively write a statement on the most important information for all voters to know. The award-winning process has been replicated in several other states (and soon, other countries), as a new model of using citizen deliberation to produce high-quality voter information.

Linn Davis, Program Manager for Healthy Democracy, will discuss HD’s lessons from 10 years of Citizens’ Initiative Reviews in five states, as well as the future of reimagined public decision-making in an age of democratic doubt. Linn leads HD’s process design and program management, and he coordinated CIRs in three states this year, as well as developing a new high school CIR program. He holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State and a BA from Grinnell College. He previously worked as a journalist, including stints in public radio and at publications in South Africa and India. He lives in Portland, and, yes, he is an ’80s kid.