Innovative Ways to Engage with Citizens at the Innovating Democracy

Workshop led by Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) at the Innovating Democracy Conference.

During the last few decades and on a global scale, democracy has come increasingly under siege – a phenomenon epitomized by an enormous erosion in the public standing of political parties. In the final analysis this is, in fact, a question of trust. Citizens feel ever more disenfranchised and trust in democracy, in democratic institutions and especially in political parties has plummeted to an all-time low.

Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us. Classical political parties are nineteenth-century solutions to nineteenth-century problems, reflecting nineteenth-century technology: the railway, the telegraph, the newspaper. In the twenty-first century, political parties are not only quickly losing the trust of the people, but also their relevance among a wired citizenry, which in the way it has embraced technology to help shape its environment and living conditions is now already far more advanced. Established parties are lagging behind, don’t seem to know what to do, or are in a state of denial that turns them into mere passive onlookers.

In recent years some started trying to do things differently, however. The workshop will showcase two new political parties — the Pirate Party from Iceland and the Partido de la Red (the Net Party) from Buenos Aires, Argentina – that are laboratories of political innovation. They adapt to the twenty-first century by taking a fundamentally changed relationship between politician and citizen as a starting point. Theirs is a new vision on democracy in which the democratic state develops into a democratic society and in which the citizen has become the co-creator of public value and contributor to community resilience, using modern technology to spread messages and influence outcomes in ways that until recently would have required the infrastructure of classical parties.

This workshop will present a case on how political parties rethink, retool and modernize their organisation to make them more worthy of the trust of the society they wish to govern.

By: Will Derks of Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD)

With: Sam van der Staak of International IDEA (Stockholm), MP Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir of the Pirate Party (Iceland), Felipe Muñoz of the Partido de la Red (Argentina)