The Deliberative Democracy Consortium

Mar 23rd
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Funding Local Democracy

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The DDC has worked with PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement) to develop "Funding and Fostering Local Democracy," a guide designed to help the philanthropic community grapple with the question of how to support innovative and effective forms of democratic governance. The guide is free and can be downloaded here or on the DDC resources page.

The guide provides a detailed description of how local civic engagement has grown and developed over the past decade. The strategies described in the guide—and the stories of how communities have used them to break policy deadlock, reduce tension and galvanize volunteerism—can help funders, public officials and community activists better understand the possibilities, and limitations, of various approaches to working with the public.

“As more and more foundations are making civic engagement a part of their funding priorities, they are also being presented with a whole new set of approaches and tools for engaging citizens at the local level,” says Chris Gates, the Executive Director of PACE, "This guide is an attempt to demystify the emerging field of deliberative democracy and help funders make more informed decisions about their support of this growing field.”

“Perhaps the most significant—and overlooked—recent development in the health of local democracy is the shift in citizen expectations, capacities and attitudes toward government,” argues Matt Leighninger, the director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the author of this guide. “This guide illustrates how this shift is affecting public officials, foundations and nonprofit organizations, and how it has provoked a new generation of efforts to make local politics and local governance more participatory, deliberative and productive.”

The guide provides a list of some of the main organizations working in this field, describes some of the most influential models and processes, and provides examples of particularly significant democratic governance efforts. It also outlines some of the cutting-edge questions facing the field and provides a long list of resources to consult.

PACE is an affinity group of the Council on Foundations, founded in 2005 to bring new philanthropic focus to the issues of civic engagement and democratic renewal.

For more information contact Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or the author of the guide, Matt Leighninger, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



JPD logoThe Journal of Public Deliberation is a collaboration between the DDC, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), and the Center for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University. An online, refereed journal, JPD is the flagship publication in its field, and an important catalyst for the rapid growth of interest in democracy, citizenship, and participation. Find it at


DDC eBulletin

  • Want training in public participation? Choose the courses you want to see at the IAP2 Skills Symposium in late May – Trainers include Matt Leighninger, Tina Nabatchi, Steve Clift, Anne Carroll, Kyle Bozentko, and Marty Rozelle.
  • If we gave citizens more ways to measure democracy, they would have more ways to improve it – @TechPresident
  • Nonprofits that take advantage of new thick and thin forms of engagement can thrive – @GatesSunlight
  • “If forms of government can be likened to operating systems, current variants of democracy are like early, primitive versions of Windows.” “They are neither optimally functional nor user-friendly – they are buggy, susceptible to malware, and lack desired features.”
  • The “People’s Lobby,” which allows people to generate legislation for City Council consideration, and includes a deliberative phase, starts up in Provo, Utah –
  • “Morris Engaged,” which combines education, deliberation, and citizen-led action on climate change in rural Minnesota, has been named a finalist in the Environmental Initiative awards – @JeffersonCtr
  • The National Civic League has announced the finalists for the 2015 All-America City Award – @allamericacity
  • Can we fix voting, a part of democracy, without strengthening the other aspects of democracy? Probably not. And why would we, when the more participatory aspects of democracy offer so many other benefits? Unfortunately, none of those are mentioned in this piece, which is another example of why conflating “democracy” with voting doesn’t help.
  • “Rather than blame our leaders for the dysfunction, we need to change the game.” This article includes some examples of how engaging citizens in participatory ways – and treating democracy as more than just voting – can tackle problems like climate change that seem politically impossible to address.

DDC on social media

For news, resources, and updates on deliberation, participation, and democratic governance around the world, like DDC on Facebook, follow @mattleighninger on Twitter, or connect with mattleighninger on LinkedIn.

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Journal of Public Deliberation
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