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Envisioning democratic possibilities in the U.S. and around the globe

Author: 
Martha McCoy
March 27, 2018

Recently I had the chance to spend time with an amazing group of participatory democracy activists and scholars at the “Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference” in Phoenix, Arizona. I was excited to share about Everyday Democracy’s work with communities across the U.S. to bring a racial equity lens to the creation of opportunities for voice and participation in solving public problems and making decisions.  

 

Those of us who participated  – from countries in every continent – were there because there are deep challenges facing democracy. Inequities and divisions are growing. Moneyed interests have too much sway over the conditions of our public square and our life opportunities, especially for those of us most affected by inequality. Out of growing fear and misinformation, some people are turning against one another in ways that further weaken the foundations of democracy.      

 

But as we see so clearly in the U.S. and across the world, people of all ages and backgrounds are standing up to be heard, in ways that affirm our humanity. They are shining a light on the possibility of a different way of living together and governing ourselves.

We all know that like democracy itself, racial equity is a road that we create by walking it.

Democracy activists from outside and inside government are at work every day to make voice and participation a regular part of how we are governed.  They know that when all people have a chance to hear and be heard by each other and by government, equitable solutions result. They are showing that when government is structured to listen to the people – at election time and every day in between – we can meet our toughest challenges and create communities where everyone can thrive.

 

These opportunities are still way too few and far between, but they are growing and gaining attention. Those of us working to create and sustain these opportunities are sharing tools, processes, promising practices, and examples of inspirational leaders from every corner. Whether we are supporting dialogue-to-change, participatory budgeting, or other kinds of democratic approaches, we are working together as a field and an emerging movement. We are helping to change the nature and quality of ongoing interactions between people and each other, and between people and government.

 

A critical part of strengthening this movement is to shine a light on racial equity as a foundational principle.  I was grateful to hear from several people at the conference that they had learned from the ways Everyday Democracy has made a commitment to racial equity in every aspect of our work. We have been strengthening and focusing our racial equity lens for more than two decades. It is a work in progress, for our organization and the communities and organizations we work with. We all know that like democracy itself, racial equity is a road that we create by walking it. That is why we will keep working to find ways to help people consider structural racism as they organize dialogue-to-change on every kind of issue.

 

We have seen and documented the powerful effects of communities’ commitment to learn about and address racial equity.  It opens the door to greater progress on creating welcoming, equitable opportunities for voice, participation, and working together for meaningful change. It makes it possible for people to understand the ways structural inequities reinforce each other, so that they can thoughtfully address inequities related to income, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, or language. It makes it possible to envision equitable solutions to public problems that otherwise seem unsolvable.  

 

We – Everyday Democracy and our local, regional and national partners – are filled with urgency and with hope.  Though our country and our world face serious challenges, people everywhere are forging meaningful pathways to equitable, participatory democracy.  

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Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.