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Building a Deliberative, Participatory Processes for a Deeply Democratic Society

Contribution to the PDC 2020 Interactive Workshop "Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility: The Past, Present and Future Values of Participatory Design".

Published onMay 25, 2020
Building a Deliberative, Participatory Processes for a Deeply Democratic Society

Building a Deliberative, Participatory Processes for a Deeply Democratic Society

By Sonia Randhawa

Coalition for Everyone

Contact: [email protected]

Democracy and society are broken. The average life expectancy of the world’s richest economy (pre-COVID) was being dragged down by an epidemic of suicide among those aged under 40. People feel disconnected from the political decisions that govern their lives. Internationally, the disconnect between the majority of people who want decisive action on the climate crisis is in stark contrast with the political elites who still prevaricate, across all political divides.

The solution to the broken-ness of the systems is to re-connect decision-making with not the publics that currently exist, but re-connecting decision-making to informed, representative publics through Citizens’ Assemblies and helping build the capacity of people to make informed decisions through deliberative People’s Assemblies.

The Coalition of Everyone proposes a workshop on how deliberative, democratic principles can form the basis of the design process. The aim would be to inspire computing professionals to engage their organisations and clients in participatory processes that shift the values informing the design process from hierarchical to horizontal structures and that privilege co-operation over competition.

The workshop will practice what it preaches, engaging design practitioners in an open process to solve one key problem: “How can design engage in the climate crisis?”. The workshop will involve a brief discussion of what participatory, deliberative democracy is, and how it is being used around the world; followed by an experiential component around that key question.

The Coalition of Everyone is building a politics of hope, and defusing the politics of fear, by designing processes that bring diverse people together in a facilitated environment which builds trust and allows assemblies to consider potentially divisive issues in a respectful way, directed towards solutions. We consider the greatest challenge facing the world today is the climate crisis, and we recognise that we will need everyone to direct their talents towards rebuilding society through a just, zero-carbon transition.

The Coalition of Everyone is based in Australia, and we recognise that we live and work on stolen land, land which was never ceded. We pay our respects to Indigenous elders past, present and emerging.

Douglas Schuler:

This sounds great! Maybe we need to be building a (big?) test bed for trying out deliberative platforms? I’m wondering how my thought experiment / proposal fits in with this work:

Sonia Randhawa:

Hi Douglas, love the enthusiasm! I’d love to discuss further - but as a veteran of UN conferences, I’m just hesitant about the ability of the world’s (human) ‘citizens’ to come together in meaningful deliberative processes. In particular, I remember the World Conference Against Racism, which took place shortly before 9-11, where the US played the part of universal villain (on issues such as reparations for slavery, Palestinian sovereignty etc). This was, of course, a gathering of both government delegates and activists, I was there as a journalist. And I found that the difficulties of translating context even among people who were overwhelmingly well-educated, articulate and well-meaning, was overwhelming, and to me overshadowed a lot of the achievements. I wonder how we would be able, for example, to facilitate a discussion on (say) COVID-19 between a woman from Kerala and an urbanite from Shanghai; a farmer from Rwanda and a teacher from the UK. Language would be a small problem compared to the other issues of contextualisation…. I think it’s possible to conduct these sorts of assemblies on a larger-than-national scale (say EU, Latin America, SouthEast Asia, South Asia etc), but I’m just not sure that a global citizens’ parliament is possible.