University of Alberta Takes a Leading Role in International Research Partnership on Participation and Democracy

We are in the midst of a transformation of democracy — one possibly as revolutionary as the development of the representative, party-based form of democracy that evolved out of the universal franchise. This transformation involves hundreds of thousands of new channels of citizen involvement in government, often outside the more visible politics of electoral representation, and occurring in most countries of the world.

In light of these fast-moving changes, the Centre for Public Involvement, Faculty of Extension, is pleased to report that it is playing an important role in a new global partnership that has been awarded a significant grant to support the work of the Participedia Project. The Participedia Project’s primary goals are to map the developing sphere of participatory democratic innovations; explain why they are developing as they are; assess their contributions to democracy and good governance; and transfer this knowledge back into practice.

University of Alberta researchers — Dr. Marco Adria, Faculty of Extension, Dr. David Kahane (Political Science), with Centre for Public Involvement Executive Director Fiona Cavanagh, Faculty of Extension — will play an important role in this project by focusing their contributions on involving master’s and doctoral students in exploring and documenting innovations in public involvement. Dr. Katy Campbell, Dean of the Faculty of Extension, “is extremely pleased to be a part of this research project. Working across disciplines and sectors, in particular with our partners such as the City of Edmonton, will enhance the participatory research and community-based scholarship we are doing as a Faculty.”

As part of its work on the Participedia Project, the Centre for Public Involvement will continue to collaborate with its founding partner, the City of Edmonton, to advance the scholarship and practice of public involvement.

The 5-year, $2.5M Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) was awarded to the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions and the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. The SSHRC Partnership Grant will support the collaborative work of an extensive community of academic researchers, students, practitioners of democratic innovations, design and technology professionals, and others.

The project partners include eight Canadian universities and seventeen additional universities and non-governmental organizations representing every continent on the globe. (Please see below for a list of the project partners. Full lists of the project’s collaborators and co-investigators can be found here.) More than $1M of the Partnership Grant funds will be split among project partners to support student research and travel that will further the students’ learning, while also advancing Participedia’s mission. For their part, the project partners have collectively pledged an additional $2M in cash and in-kind contributions to the initiative.

Professor Mark E. Warren, the Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair for the Study of Democracy in UBC’s Department of Political Science, co-founded Participedia in 2009 with Professor Archon Fung, Academic Dean and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Warren serves as Participedia’s project director and as principal investigator for the SSHRC Partnership Grant.

Shared online research platforms will make it easy for both experts and non-experts to gather information. The current beta platform at www.participedia.net has already facilitated the collection of close to 1,000 entries cataloguing case examples of participatory politics; the organizations that design, implement, or support the cases; and the variety of methods used to guide democratic innovations.

Warren emphasizes the project’s ambitious goals, noting that “By organizing hundreds of researchers, the Participedia Project will not only anchor and strengthen the emerging field of democratic innovations, but also develop a new model for global collaboration in the social sciences.”

Expectations for the Participedia Project’s outcomes include:

  • innovative research platforms to enable extensive, decentralized, co-production of knowledge;
  • a deep and voluminous common pool of knowledge about participatory democratic innovations that will support a new generation of research and practice; and
  • global and diverse communities of research and practice focused on participatory democratic innovations.

Partner organizations include the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, InterPARES Trust, McGill University, McMaster University, Université de Montreal, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, University of Toronto-Scarborough, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, Harvard University, the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy, Nanyang Technological University, the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, Peking University, Pennsylvania State University, Research College / University of Duisburg-Essen, Syracuse University, Tsinghua University, Universidade de Coimbra, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, University of Bologna, University of Canberra, University of the Western Cape, University of Westminster, and the World Bank Institute.

If you are interested in learning more about this project and CPI’s involvement in this exciting work, contact Fiona Cavanagh, Executive Director of CPI at the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta: (780) 492-9181 or Fiona.cavanagh@ualberta.ca

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Posted on October 01, 2015 | Categorized in Events and News.