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Sunday, April 18, 2021

UC researchers commit to strengthening democracy

As the final wave of voters head to the polls for the 2020 ACT election, the University of Canberra has received funding to build a stronger democracy through citizen engagement.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has awarded $200,000 to the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance to monitor deliberative integrity through citizen engagement.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Nicole Curato said recent interest in democracy was showing in different ways.

“Known as ‘the deliberative wave’, it has seen the rapid proliferation of citizen juries, citizen assemblies and citizen panels, among others, as a way of responding to the crisis of democracy,” she said.

“While many say that trust in democracy is declining, there is actually a growing interest in doing democracy differently.”

During the deliberative process, random citizens will be chosen to discuss a topical issue over three to five days, with engagement from experts and advocates.

They are then given time to process the information, reflect individually then as a group, and provide recommendations on the topic.

The findings will then be used to build a Deliberative Integrity Monitoring Tool by the research team.

“To develop and design the Deliberative Integrity Monitoring Framework, we will collaborate with the global network of scholars, practitioners and policymakers,” Associate Professor Curato said.

“Our Centre has core strengths in developing cutting-edge theory and sophisticated methodology in studying deliberative practice, and we think these core strengths can be enhanced by connecting to a global community who have run a lot of these processes themselves.

“We will be able to discover and set the standards for best practice in democratic innovation, that will in turn help improve the quality of Australian democracy – and we are grateful that the ARC considered this project an important one at a time when democratic discontent is on the rise.”

Working alongside Professor John Dryzek, Associate Professor Selen Ercan, and Professor Simon Niemeyer, the framework will be applied to the expanding range of deliberative democratic innovations in Australia.

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