Our Story

Healthy Democracy is a US-based nonpartisan nonprofit that works to elevate everyday people in public decision making.

We use democratic lotteries to empower new voices and guarantee representation across our many diversities. And we design deliberative processes that prove a more collaborative politics is possible. We partner with governments, nonprofits, and other organizations to bring together Lottery-Selected Panels that tackle our most difficult policy issues –­ from housing to health care.

We also pioneered the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) – the first modern lottery-selected process to be institutionalized in the United States (in Oregon state law in 2011). The CIR convenes Lottery-Selected Panels to investigate ballot measures and write clear, concise, and accurate voter information, removed from campaign messaging and financial influence.

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Our
Values

Our
People

Our
Work

Our History

Early 2000's
Early 2000's

Ned Crosby, Ph.D – democracy process innovator and author of Healthy Democracy – and his wife and colleague Pat Benn begin to develop and promote the idea of the Citizens’ Initiative Review. Crosby’s pioneering work to develop the Citizens Jury method of public deliberation is the foundation of the CIR process.

Recognized as a leading innovation in the field of citizen deliberation and public engagement, the Citizens Jury method has been used over the past 30 years in a wide variety of applications. To learn more about the history of the Citizens Jury process visit the Center for New Democratic Processes.

2007
2007

Following a meeting with Crosby and Benn, Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford co-found what is then known as Healthy Democracy Oregon, where they remain as co-directors until 2011 – when the CIR is adopted into Oregon law. Reitman will continue as Executive Director until 2015.

2008 - 2009
2008 - 2009

2008: A “field test” of the CIR process reviews Oregon Ballot Measure 58, and the League of Women Voters of Oregon finds this early test to be fair and unbiased. Kate Brown, at the time Oregon’s Secretary of State, suggests legislation to authorize a CIR pilot.

2009: The Oregon Legislature passes House Bill 2895, which authorizes a Citizens’ Initiative Review pilot.

2010
2010

Healthy Democracy conducts pilot Citizens’ Initiative Reviews of Oregon Ballot Measures 73 and 74. The resulting Citizens’ Statements are published in the official statewide voters’ pamphlet.

Deliberation scholar John Gastil, then a professor at the University of Washington, leads an academic evaluation of the CIR process, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The evaluation’s final report to the Oregon Legislature finds that citizen panelists “conducted a sufficiently rigorous analysis of the issues put before them and maintained a fair and respectful discussion process throughout their proceedings.” What’s more, it finds the final Citizens’ Statements “free of any gross factual errors or logical fallacies.”

2011
2011

A bipartisan group of Oregon legislators sponsors House Bill 2634, which provides authorization and governance for Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review process. It is signed into law July 21, 2011, and the CIR becomes a permanent fixture of Oregon’s electoral process.

The law creates the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, a bipartisan state board that oversees the CIR process, including verifying panelist selection and determining which measures will be reviewed.

2012
2012

The Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission convenes Oregon’s first official CIRs and selects Healthy Democracy to conduct the reviews. Two citizen panels review Measures 82 and 85 (view final Citizens’ Statements here).

The CIR continues to be the focus of extensive academic study. John Gastil, now at Penn State University, collaborates on another report, which once again affirms the CIR’s “high level of factual accuracy.” (Additional CIR research is available here.)

2014
2014

Using a redesigned CIR process, Healthy Democracy conducted Citizens’ Initiative Reviews of statewide Oregon Measures 90 and 92, and carried out its first county-level initiative review in Jackson County, Oregon. (view final Statements here).

HD also conducts its first Citizens’ Initiative Reviews outside Oregon, with CIR pilots in Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona.

2016
2016

After once again refining the CIR process, Healthy Democracy carries out official CIRs in Oregon and Arizona, as well as a pilot CIR in Massachusetts.

The 2016 Oregon CIR reviewed Measure 97, a complex initiative that would revise the minimum corporate income tax for C-corporations making over $25 million in Oregon sales. See the full citizens’ statement.

Healthy Democracy has partnered with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University to conduct Arizona’s first publicly funded CIR on Propoisition 205. See the full statement.

Massachusetts State Representative Jonathan Hecht, and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University partnered to bring the first statewide Citizens’ Initiative Review process to Massachusetts in 2016. Legislation to make the Citizens’ Initiative Review process an official part of Massachusetts elections has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature. Find out more about the pilot project on the project website.

2017
2017

This year saw the launch of a new project: Community Oregon. This project was a statewide program that brought rural and urban Oregonians together to build trust and mutual understanding through dialogue and local community immersion.

2018
2018

Healthy Democracy was a founding member and the fiscal sponsor of the first international network for lottery selected democracy, Democracy R&D.

Healthy Democracy conducted Citizens’ Initiative Reviews in California, Massachusetts, and the Portland Metro Area.

2019
2019

Reconvened 2nd Community Oregon Program

Milwaukie citizen jury on council compensation. First ever municipal (city level) lottery selected panel in Oregon.

Partnered on CIR projects in Finland and Switzerland. Featured speaker at 2019- City Buenos Aires 7th international congress on urbanism, mobility, and civic engagement.

Healthy Democracy was a featured speaker at each of the following:

• Healthy Democracy presented at the Global Forum for Direct Democracy in Rome, Italy.
• Robin Teater and John Gastil spoke at the Conference on Democratic Cities: Rethinking the Future of Cities and Social Transformation in Madrid, Spain. Watch their presentation here.
• At the El Observatorio Internacional de la Democracia Participativa (OIDP) in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Katherine Knobloch spoke about the efficacy of CIRs on participantand the general public. See her presentation here. At the same conference, Dr. John Gastil spoke about the CIRs potential to improve direct democracy. See his presentation here.

2020
2020

Oregon Pilot Assembly on COVID 19 Recovery

• Began 2020 Eugene Review Panel on Housing: From November 2020 to April 2021, 29 everyday Eugene residents – selected through a democratic lottery – advised the City of Eugene on questions related to its Middle Housing Code Changes Project. Meeting online for a total of 35 hours over 15 meetings, the Panel drafted four reports, which not only provide advice on housing code revisions but also on the City’s public engagement practices.

2021
2021

New Staff: We transitioned away from a traditional Executive Director structure and are attempting a more democratic, shared-director structure. Instead of an ED, we have split the role into 4 Director positions: Programs Co-Directors, Operations Director, Director of Outreach and Communications.

Featured speaker at 2021 IAP2 - North American Conference

Featured speaker at 2021 ELGL

Featured speaker at 2021 League of California Cities conference

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Memberships


National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

The Bridge Alliance

Democracy R&D

OECD Innovative Citizen Participation Network

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

The Bridge Alliance

Democracy R&D

OECD Innovative Citizen Participation Network

Awards

Harvard University Ash Center
Innovations in American Government Awards
Top-10 Program – 2018, 2017, and 2015
OECD report
Featured project
International Association for Public Participation
International Project of the Year – 2013

Harvard University Ash Center
Innovations in American Government Awards
Top-10 Program – 2018, 2017, and 2015

International Association
for Public Participation
International Project of the Year – 2013

OECD report
Featured project