How active citizenship can strengthen democracy

At engage2, we believe democracy is more than just a vote and that its success requires more than just four pillars. Enter active citizenship.

Active citizenship involves two elements. One is the ‘see something, do something’ model of do-ocracy, where citizens participate in their communities by identifying problems and creating solutions rather than falling into ‘complain-cency’.

 

“The second element involves listening to other people, reading information and checking your bias, because it’s not your democracy, it’s our democracy,” says Amelia Loye, Managing Director of engage2.

“If you see a problem, do something, but don’t do it on your own or in a little bubble where you’re not looking at the rest of the world and collaborating with others.”

In traditional models of representative democracy,  four pillars support democracy. These include the judiciary, bureaucracy, legislature and media, which deliver democracy’s driving forces of justice, equity, representation and information respectively.

But recent elections in the US and the referendum in the UK have led to much water-cooler talk about the failure of representative democracy.

Challenges such as housing affordability, extreme weather events, growing populations, migration patterns and increased demand for resources, services and infrastructure only seem to heighten this disillusionment; the challenges are big and many people feel disempowered or don’t know what to do.

But these difficulties present opportunities for communities and democracy alike, and citizens are already stepping up to help settle refugees and immigrants, build resilient cities, create energy cooperatives and more.

 

At engage2, we believe democracy does need a refresh. We believe that it needs to evolve in light of these wicked problems, and we see active citizenship and participation as the key to refining and strengthening both democracy and community.

“Opening up government and creating opportunities for people and organisations to participate in their communities and governance ultimately builds better understanding and trust between government and community. It also makes governments more representative,” says Amelia.

How does it do this? It helps government better understand the interests and needs of community, and makes it easier for them to serve current needs as well as those of growing populations with limited public funds.

“It can also increase people’s understanding of the complexity of the challenges we face and how they can contribute to addressing them,” says Amelia.

“By engaging activated citizens and enabling and encourage active citizenship, government is giving people constructive ways to participate in their community and the way that it is governed,” she says.

 

Want to support more active citizens in your community? We have a wealth of ways to help you. Email: info@engage2.com.au

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