Behind the Scenes at HD

Since you haven’t heard from us much lately, we thought we’d share a glimpse of what’s inspiring and delighting us behind the scenes at HD. (Against the backdrop of a long winter in Oregon, we could all use some inspiration!).

Between major projects, our amazing little team is still working towards our mission every single day! We’re having wonderful conversations with civil servants and fellow democracy innovators. We’re building capacity and better materials. And we’re strategizing about how to grow our impact – not only for one-off programs (while we love those!), but for systemic changes that put everyday people at the heart of self-governance every day on all the policies that affect our lives.

First and foremost, we’re talking to anyone and everyone who wants to learn about innovative deliberative democracy. Just in the last few months, we’ve had conversations with 20 local governments who are looking for new ways to do community-led decision making. We’ve grown our network of volunteer advocates in 9 new states. And we’re continuously reminded in these conversations that we have tools people need. Tools that provide real access and inclusion to policymaking for all communities. Tools that help folks have rich, nuanced conversations about our toughest local challenges.

Lottery-Selected Panels are also getting more mentions in government-issued project solicitations. While this might sound like bureaucratic gibberish to some, we see this development as a huge win. Given the niche nature of these processes, often the tool that’s available to most of our colleagues – public procurement by government agencies – is not available to us. Finally, we’re starting to see the tides turn. Governments are beginning to proactively ask for representative deliberative processes like Citizens’ Assemblies. This speaks volumes to the strength of our growing movement in the U.S.!

Behind the scenes we’re also developing new materials – like resource guides, training curriculum, and readiness assessments for governments considering this model. And we’re making improvements to the nuts and bolts of our processes to ensure the next public program runs even more smoothly than the last.

Of course, we’ve also been showing up to support our amazing partners doing democracy reform work all over the world. We don’t talk enough about the coalitions that help make HD what we are – shoutout to Democracy Beyond Elections (a project of the Participatory Budgeting Project), Bridge Alliance, and Our Common Purpose, just to name a few. And as has been true since its inception, the Democracy R&D network is our true home where we learn and grow with partners doing exactly what we do – lottery-selected deliberative democracy. Members of our team help organize the North American convening and help manage DR&D’s finances as their fiscal sponsor.

It’s been exciting to forge newer partnerships and connect with new audiences, too. Our January webinar with the National Civics League was a huge success in reaching new municipal leaders. Kacey traveled to Mexico City to speak about the Initiative Convention System at the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy! Alongside Democracy Without Elections, we hosted our first successful training for advocates of lottery deliberation. We’ve even been talking with state land use planners in Oregon about building capacity for local deliberative engagement. There are too many friends and colleagues to name who regularly make us better at what we do!

And finally, we get to roll up our sleeves and grow our democracy practices inside the organization. Emergent Strategy, a concept coined by adrienne maree brown in her 2017 book by the same name, asserts that we transform social systems through small acts. So as we build towards a more inclusive deliberative democracy across the U.S., we strive every day to practice those values in our interactions with one another. We show up as our whole selves – bringing humor, passion, and care to our work – all while fine-tuning our systems to be more efficient and encouraging ourselves to live rich lives outside of work. We all share the task of developing the nitty gritty systems that help our organization function, which we hope will inspire others to experiment with nonhierarchical democracy in the workplace.

With a small team of four, we are all hands on deck. We are invested in the organization at every level – from the minutiae of fundraising to the grandiose visioning of entire new governance models. Until our next public project, we’ll be here… building a movement for more inclusive and deliberative democracy, one day at a time.