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Democratic Renewal Project
Combining its leading-edge research and facilitation capacity, the KTA Centre for Collaborative Governance, in partnership with the Crossing Boundaries National Council, brought together a group of leading senior public servants and elected officials active in the democratic renewal movement in Canada.

At its inaugural meeting in January, 2004 the National Council agreed to establish a Working Group that would examine the challenges and opportunities information and communications technology (ICTs) hold for revitalizing our democratic system, including how citizens can be more fully involved in the public policy process through e-consultation and citizen engagement.

The group had a number of objectives:

  1. To examine and report to the National Council on the role, challenges and opportunities that ICTs hold for helping to revitalize Canada’s democratic system and to more fully engage citizens in the political and public policy process, and more specifically:
    • To define what is meant by democratic renewal
    • To identify areas and approaches where the Working Group believes ICTs can play a beneficial role in democratic renewal strategies;
    • To explore within the context of democratic renewal various models of e-consultation and citizen engagement, including examining best practices and lessons learned, with a view to developing a typology or classification of the various approaches and how ICTs can be used to make these approaches more effective;
    • To develop an understanding of the views of politicians and public servants on the utility and benefits of citizen consultation approaches and to clarify and better definition of their respective roles and responsibilities

  2. To produce a synthesis of current democratic renewal initiatives across the country including identifying key areas and priorities for reform, the type of process underway and how citizens and stakeholders are being involved, the stage of the various processes, an inventory of some of the new thinking and ideas that is emerging, and lessons learned.

  3. To facilitate the development of a network and community of interest around the Council to support its mission of promoting the process of democratic renewal. This network will include politicians, public servants, academics, experts, and stakeholders actively working in the area.

  4. To provide advice to the National Council on how the issue of democratic renewal might be further advanced as a Council initiative.The group, through a series of meetings and outreach to practitioners and experts across the country, developed a first-of-its-kind report, entitled Democratic Renewal: Survey and Analysis, outlining the democratic renewal landscape that is emerging across the country. In addition, an issue of the KTA Centre’s Policy, Politics and Governance series entitled Democratic Renewal: Solutions in Search of a Problem, was also published and distributed to approximately 3000 public sector leaders across the country. These reports successfully framed the efforts of governments and aboriginal organizations into three basic ‘themes’ of democratic renewal, and placed ICT in the context of these themes:

    • Electoral Reform
    • Enhancing the role of elected officials
    • Enhancing or creating new mechanisms for involving citizens in governance

This report was well received by the Council, and has served as a launchpad for a further process now underway, that will seek to bring delegations from governments across Canada together to ask themselves a critical question: With so much activity happening across the country through so many different channels, what is it that binds these efforts together? In effect, what is the problem with our democracy that we are trying to solve?

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© 2005 Kaufman, Thomas & Associates Inc.