We are living in turbulent times for electoral democracy. But it didn’t start with the Brexit referendum and the election of Trump – over the period 2006 – 2016 the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index recorded a decline in democratic health for more than half the 167 countries it monitors.
In many parts of the world citizens are losing faith in the electoral system that had been considered the consensus vehicle of human progress over much of the last century. Northern Ireland is no exception to this trend.
Whilst populist demagogues would have us believe ‘strong’ leadership and a return to authoritarianism is the answer, proponents of deliberative democracy believe quite the reverse – that a key part of the solution to this malaise is a deeper involvement of citizens in decision-making.
The Building Change Trust’s Democracy Day seeks to explore the health of democracy in Northern Ireland and beyond through a deliberative lens – showcasing some ground breaking experiments both locally and internationally and initiating a dialogue about what some of the solutions may be.
Democracy Day is just one part of the Trust’s work in what we like to call ‘Creative Space for Civic Thinking’, which looks at how the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector can help citizens and communities become better connected to those who make the decisions affecting their lives.
As well as Democracy Day, we have funded the Open Government Network, funded a number of innovative Civic Activism projects and looked at the independence of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector.
Democracy Day will start with a networking breakfast and drama performance at 8am, with events starting at 9am with the launch of the Trust’s research into the health of democracy in Northern Ireland. From there the day will be a whistle-stop tour of democracy innovations at local and international level with plenty of opportunities for participants to get involved and experience some of the methods themselves, such as citizen juries, citizen assemblies, digital democracy platforms, participatory card games and more.
The day will culminate with two evening events.
The first will be hosted by the Open Government Network and will put democracy ‘on trial’ by will exploring the state of democracy in Northern Ireland.
It will take the form of a show trial that puts Democracy in the dock to consider whether it’s guilty of failing people in the UK, the US and across the world.
As part of the event we’ll have a Judge or Presiding Magistrate to oversee and direct proceedings, a Prosecution Team and a Defence Team, each with the opportunity to call and cross-examine 3 witnesses to help make their case and a jury, made up of the Audience who will deliver the verdict.
The final event on the day will be a lecture given by Bill Adair, Pulitzer Prize winner and founder of Politifact. He will be asking the question: Are we living in a Post-Truth Democracy?