Webinar recording on democratic innovation

Out of focus aerial shot of a crowd of people walking in a city.


Trust Democracy and Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures held an hour-long webinar with two world experts on democratic innovation.

The webinar explored the potential of citizens’ assemblies and Polis to include and empower the public in agenda setting and problem solving.

Art O’Leary organised the first Irish citizens’ assembly on constitutional reform. He has been closely involved with the subsequent four citizens’ assemblies, which are transforming Irish politics.

Colin Megill, inspired by his time in Occupy Wall Street, went on to co-create Polis and the non-profit Computational Democracy Project. Polis is used extensively worldwide to facilitate large-scale online discussions on important issues.

For the transcript, answers to Q&A and presentation slides, visit the Trust Democracy site.

 

Context

We have been slower than other countries in exploring new methods to involve the public in decision-making, but we’re now starting to make progress with some public entities showing interest.

For example, in 2022, Koi Tū organised a citizens’ assembly on behalf of Watercare to tackle the critical question of Auckland’s future water sources. The assembly gave Watercare confidence that open dialogue and deliberation with members of the public can produce constructive solutions.

Trust Democracy worked with Koi Tū to run a Polis for the Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport to test the use of Polis for involving stakeholders in its project on the future of the land transport revenue system. The results of the Polis fed into the next phase, with Koi Tū leading a series of representative deliberative events across New Zealand.

We’re at a critical juncture. Democracies around the world are under enormous pressure as a result of issues like climate change, poverty, housing and equity. Existing democratic processes are no longer sufficient to meet these challenges. Innovations that promote much greater public input and discussion will be required.

About the speakers

Art O’Leary is the Chief Executive at An Coimisiún Toghcháin, The Electoral Commission, overseeing electoral and wider democracy matters. He is also the Secretary to two national Citizens’ Assemblies on the crisis on Biodiversity Loss and local government structures in Dublin. He designed and led Ireland’s first Citizens’ Assembly in 2012, which resulted in a number of successful constitutional referendums. Art served as Secretary General to the President of Ireland from 2014 to 2021. He is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Politics and Government at University College Cork and holds an MBA from Henley Business School.

Colin Megill is cofounder of pol.is and President of The Computational Democracy Project. Polis is an online tool used to gather open ended feedback from large groups of people. It is well suited to gathering organic, authentic feedback while retaining minority opinions. Polis has been widely covered in the popular press — including articles from The New York Times, The Guardian, The Economist and MIT Tech Review — as well as in documentaries from the BBC and books from Penguin.

About us

Trust Democracy is a non-profit member organisation that works to strengthen democracy through education, research and demonstrating new forms of democratic decision making.

Koi Tū is a non-partisan think tank at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland that aims to understand the long term implications of today’s rapid transformations. Our goal is to provide a platform for the dissemination of knowledge and ideas that can help address complex and contested societal questions.

 

Our themes