Strengthening democracy one conversation at a time
Democracy Talks is based on a simple premise—our democracy is healthiest when people’s voices are heard. But today, many Canadians have stopped using their political voice; nearly 40% of Canadians report they have not had even one conversation about politics in the last year.
While volunteering on a political campaign—or even voting—is unlikely to be anyone’s first political action, research indicates that just talking about politics and discussing community issues in everyday life can lead to an increase in participation.
What is Democracy Talks?
Democracy Talks is an outreach program that motivates Canadians who are not engaging in Canada’s democracy by giving them the opportunity to discover and develop their political voice. It is a facilitated, activity-based discussion around issues that matter to society.
For some, it is a chance to build connections with others who share a passion for politics but for many it is their first step towards fully engaging Canada’s democracy.
Based on listening, talking and doing, rather than instruction, Democracy Talks turns traditional civics education on its head. In small groups, each session starts with a simple question—“What matters to you?”—which provides an opportunity for a non-partisan, positive and safe conversation among neighbours, friends and classmates.
In the end, Democracy Talks connects the concerns and aspirations of participants to Canada’s democracy and politics. Democracy Talks reminds participants that they have a voice and that it matters.
Who is Democracy Talks for?
Democracy Talks is for any national or local community group that wants a non-partisan approach to empowering its members and investing in their long-term social well-being.
It can be especially useful for groups that work with:
marginalized people who face economic or social barriers to inclusion; or newcomers who want to understand how Canadian politics works and get involved.
Through the Democracy Talks program, Samara has worked with over 175 community-based organizations in 25 communities from Newfoundland to British Columbia to the Northwest Territories.
How the Democracy Talks Program Works
The defining characteristic of a Democracy Talks session is that it is participant-led, and based on talking and listening. Participants choose the issues to discuss to ensure that the topics are meaningful to them.
Democracy Talks is delivered by staff and volunteers from community organizations with support and training from Samara.
One of the reasons why Democracy Talks is effective and sustainable is that it is designed to be easily integrated into existing programs within trusted community groups. For example, Democracy Talks has been integrated into an afterschool program for low-income youth in Vancouver, as well as a “cook and talk” program for newcomer women in Toronto. In each scenario, the person leading the session has been a trusted leader in the organization—an ESL instructor, a fellow gardener or a youth worker.
Why Democracy Talks Works
- It is community-based
- The activity reinforces the message
- It is based on the interest of participants
- It is presented by trusted and respected facilitators
- Finally, it is both fun and meaningful
Read what others are saying about Democracy Talks and get to know our partners!
 Samara, “Samara's Democracy 360” March, 2015. 39% of Canadians report not having had a conversation about politics in the last year.
 Campbell & Woldbrecht 2006; Knoke, 1990; Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998; Leighley,1990; McClurg 2003 & 2004; Mutz, 2002; Scheufele et al., 2004; Verb et al., 1995; Wyatt et al., 2000.