Democracy Talks Resources and Tools

Resources and Tools

Welcome to the Democracy Talks Resource Centre. Below are our top 10 sites for all things democratic engagement. 

OVERVIEW

Developed by Elections Canada, Inspire Democracy is an excellent starting place to learn more about youth involvement in Canadian politics. While we’re biased (they showcase Samara research and programs), any organization interested in increasing democratic involvement of youth should visit this site.

inspire dem screenshotCommunity organizers will find a long list of helpful resources here, including links to many national and provincial organizations working to increase youth participation. The site also offers some original research and infographics that provide compelling data on the state of youth political involvement.  Finally, Inspire Democracy collects some great tools from around the web, including best practice guides, news feeds for young people, classroom resources, and more.  

The site is well organized, but as with any large resource, exploring all its content takes a little time and some navigation skills.   The site is also one of the best sources for researchers and academics. Research resources include Elections Canada’s own data and reports on themes like “Civic Education” and “Milennials and their World.” It also gathers the latest findings from scholars and organizations from around the world, with reports covering everything from voter turnout and the impact of civic education to national and international databases on civic engagement - and that’s just scratching the surface. 

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?  

Community groups seeking resources on youth engagement in politics; researchers looking for data and research tools from a trustworthy source.  

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Learning: whether you’re an expert or starting out in the field, whether you’re more interested in theory or practice, Inspite Democracy will teach you something about youth engagement with politics.



OVERVIEW

Apathy is Boring uses art and technology to help Canadian young people get engaged in democracy. Apathy’s strength is that the material is created with the youth audience in mind. This means it is straightforward, jargon free and occasionally even humorous. 

AisB Artists copy

While the site design and some of the on-line materials have not been updated in a few years, they have some high quality resources that make digging around worth the effort.  The “articles” section includes a treasure trove of how to guides and background articles on everything ranging from how to vote in a municipal election to “decoding” the Canadian Constitution.  The “political parties” section includes a very strong brief summary of each party and an extensive list of party positions.   

The site also features profiles of Canadian artists and musiciansusing videos, audio downloads and interviews with artists interested in making a difference in their communities.   

Some of Apathy is Boring’s interactive features are currently dormant but it is worth checking out their Citizen Factory, a resource to help make Parliament and democracy meaningful and accessible to everyone. The Teacher’s Guide and some of the additional background pieces are particularly well written.  

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Youth leaders, youth workers and teachers interested in youth oriented background on a wide range of issues related to Canada’s democracy.  

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?  

Background on political parties and general approaches to youth democratic engagement.



OVERVIEW

 CIRCLE is a great site for scholars and community leaders interested in how young Americans engage in their communities and how community groups are successfully engaging youth. Until we have a similar resource in Canada, we can draw a number of lessons from our southern neighbours. 

Circle HP graph copyCIRCLE researches democratic participation by American youth, including theirvoting habits, media use, and political activism. The site features interactive data maps, such as one that lays out youth voting by congressional district.  There are innovative tools and charts too, including one that uses Harry Potter characters to explain extra-curricular interests. Some of the data will be most useful for academics, but the “Quick Facts” section presents the key information in a very accessible way.  

While CIRCLE will be especially valuable for academic researchers, community organizations may find aspects of the site useful. There is some helpful information about CIRCLE seminars - workshops about ways to build civic knowledge in different settings. It’s also worth looking at the “Tools for Practice,” which show how you might use CIRCLE resources

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Academics seeking a strong source of research materials on the state of youth involvement in civic life in the United States and community groups looking for successful models of engagement.  

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

 Find out everything you could ever want to know about youth engagement in American civic life – both the big picture overview and detailed examination of particular trends.



OVERVIEW

Citizens Academy is an energetic organization that is helping make Ottawa into a better place to live. Though their focus is on the capital region, community groups looking to improve urban community life anywhere in Canada will find the Citizens Academy approach inspiring. The website isn’t a huge resource, but it ably sets out some of the highlights of Citizens Academy’s work.

Citizens Acad screenshotCivics Boot Camps are a way for people to learn about municipal governance and planning, in order to build their own projects for a better city.

The Civic Coach Network puts knowledge into action. Boot Camp graduates are linked with experienced mentors who help them plan and create civic initiatives. 

Citizens Academy’s Dialogue Salons are another great idea - a safe space to talk about contentious urban issues (such as homelessness and economic development) and make new connections.

Finally, Citizen Chats are designed to provide forums for small groups of people to discuss issues that matter to them and share potential solutions.  These self-organized gatherings share some of the same characteristics of Samara’s Democracy Talks program.  Citizens Academy has compiled a helpful guide for those interested in organizing their own chat.  

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?  

Community groups and individuals looking to make cities more livable, dynamic, and resilient.  

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?  

Finding ideas and models for ways to get engaged in civic life at the municipal level.



OVERVIEW

CIVIX aims to give students across Canada a first-hand experience of democracy, and grow more active, committed and engaged young people. In addition to Student Vote, their largest project, CIVIX runs the Student Budget Consultation and Rep Day.

civix sbc screenshot copyThe Student Budget Consultation is a way for students to learn about and debate the priorities of the federal budget, then send their opinions to the Minister of Finance. Teachers will find a number of helpful teaching tools and discussion guides here. All the information you need to take part is on the site, and a chat option lets you get your questions answered by CIVIX staff.

Rep Day is a national initiative that encourages elected representatives to visit high schools to discuss current political issues.

The site is mainly a gateway for students and teachers interested in signing up for and finding out more about CIVIX projects, but academics and researchers will be interested in the results of CIVIX’s work, such as past Student Budget Consultations (Federal and Ontario).

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Students and teachers who want to learn more about ways to increase youth engagement in politics and civic life.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Get involved in CIVIX projects to increase youth engagement; facilitate discussion of political and social issues; learn about the views of young Canadians. 



OVERVIEW  

Nonprofit VOTE is easy to navigate and loaded with inspiring and useful resources for community organizations involved in civic engagement. 

nonprofit vote screenshotThough Nonprofit Vote is based in the United States and aimed at American organizations, many of its resources can be adapted to audiences in Canada. They include voter participation kits, interactive timelines to help plan projects, webinars, posters and checklists on “Getting out the vote,” fact sheets on subjects like getting a candidate to appear at an event, and much more.

The site also offers research and information on the roles that nonprofit organizations play in a healthy democracy, and the advantages of increasing nonprofit engagement with the democratic process.

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Community groups seeking to increase civic participation.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Finding inspiring resources on ways to engage people, especially get out the vote initiatives and similar electoral projects.



OVERVIEW

Springtide Collective’s website is aimed at “Making Democracy Better”

springtide imageThe Three Minute Citizen,” Springtide’s video series on Canadian politics, is a funny, smart, and appealing introduction to Canadian democracy.  From How to Influence Politics to Where do Our Tax Dollars Go?, these short animated videos set out the basics of how politics works in this country. Then they ask some serious questions about making the system work better for everyone, without losing their sense of humour.

Run out of Halifax, Springtide also offers great web tools about the provincial scene. These include infographics explaining what really happened in the last provincial election. On their Vote Smart website you’ll find a dead-on set of Plain Language Platforms that translate political promises into plain English. Or, as they put it, “Everything you need to know about the Nova Scotia election, minus the crap.”

A “springtide” is an extreme tide that touches points that most waves can’t reach, or reveals what’s usually hidden. By trying to change the way we think about our democracy, Springtide Collective is aiming to have a similar impact.

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Anyone interested in learning about how Canadian democracy works, and Nova Scotians wanting to understand and take political action in their province, whether individuals or community groups.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Introducing the basics of Canadian democracy in an accessible way. 


OVERVIEW  

During federal and most provincial elections, Student Vote runs “parallel elections” for students in primary and secondary schools. By giving millions of young people first-hand experience of democracy at work, Student Vote encourages them to become more informed and more engaged in the political process - which benefits everyone.  

student voteStudent Vote.ca features all the information teachers and schools need to get involved in a Student Vote election, including step-by-step instructions for teachers to register schools. A Live Chat option on the home page lets you ask Student Vote representatives any questions about the program online.

While Student Vote is primarily intended for schools during an election, this site is also a great resource for information about politics, voting, and public issues that are geared towards youth. The blog covers young people who are changing Canadian politics. The Student Vote YouTube channel features videos on recent Student Vote results and political leaders answering students’ questions.

Also, teachers and community groups can access lesson plans and materials on voting and democracy, from “Principles of Democracy” to “Getting to Know the Parties.” These are organized around particular elections, but are easily adaptable to different needs.

Since 2003, 22 Student Vote elections have been held, reaching over 9,000 schools and more than three million students across Canada. It’s easy to see why it’s the future of Canadian democracy.

Student Vote is a project of CIVIX.

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Students, parents and community members - to encourage their school to sign up during the next election.

Academics will benefit from the research archive on past Student Vote projects, results and impact. These relate to every electoral level going back to 2004, and allow researchers to compare student votes with actual results.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Engaging k-12 students in politics.



OVERVIEW  

“Civics 101” tells you about the political process in a highly engaging and entertaining way. The site carries video and interactive features from TVO, Ontario’s publicly funded educational media organization. While there is a strong emphasis on Ontario politics, many of the lessons and materials apply more generally.  

tvo screenshotOne great interactive feature is the budget simulator, which puts the Ontario budget in your hands. You can decide to meet your priorities by spending more or less on health or education, and raising or lowering taxes, and see what happens to the budget as a whole. You’ll learn where the province’s money comes from and where it goes, and get more insight into the difficult decisions that politicians face.

The site’s short and snappy animations explain everything from elections to more complicated issues like the difference between minority and majority governments. To learn more about what’s happening in Ontario politics today, you’ll find TVO programming on events in the Ontario parliament as well as podcasts, features on recent Premiers, and more.

TVO’s Civics 101 “Makes you think” – giving you the knowledge you need to get actively involved in your democracy.

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Anyone looking to learn more about issues of interest to Ontario citizens. Community groups and teachers seeking accessible and entertaining tools to learn about government and explore politics will also find this site very helpful.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Finding out for yourself how fundamental political processes in Ontario and Canada work – at your own pace, and in your own way.



Vote_Compass_Logo

Canada 2015 federal election
English




OVERVIEW

Are you voting for the right party?  

Vote Compass is an excellent tool for Canadians who want to find out how closely their views on political, economic, and social issues fit with the positions of the major political parties.

vote compass copyThe Vote Compass website asks you a series of questions on important issues, like, “How much should college and university students pay for their education?” and “Should marijuana be legalized?,” then asks you how much each issue really matters to you.

When you’re done, the site displays a set of charts, tables and infographics that lets you see just how closely each party’s platform matches your views.

If you’re comfortable navigating Facebook and similar sites, the whole eye-opening process can be completed in five minutes. Users with less experience on computers may take longer or need some guidance.

While it is designed for upcoming provincial elections, the Vote Compass site can be used anytime. Most of the questions apply in more than one province. This means it’s a valuable resource for anyone seeking clear information about where the different parties stand. And stay tuned: Vote Compass is planning a national version prior to the federal elections in 2015.

VOTE COMPASS SITES

WHO IS IT BEST FOR?

Individuals, to learn which political party best represent their views on key issues. Community Groups, who can use it to facilitate discussion about party values and platforms.

WHAT IS IT BEST FOR?

Understanding how your positions on policies relate to those of the political parties, making it easier to cast an informed vote at election time.



Democracy Talks in the News


Democracy Talks on the Blog

  • April 04, 2013

    Canada's message to newcomers: Beavers are important, political engagement less so

    New Canadians are introduced to Canada's political system through the "Discover Canada" guide, but given how little it actually teaches about civic engagement, is it any surprise that new Canadians are not participating politically? We take a deeper look here.
  • April 02, 2013

    Democracy Talks Dispatches: A political welcome package

    "People who are immigrating here…we don’t have any idea what the political system (is)…" Lowie Angelo, Democracy Talks contributor and a newly minted Canadian citizen, tells us how he'd increase newcomers' political participation - by providing political workshops that teach new Canadians how to get involved.
  • March 28, 2013

    Hey teachers! Hey youth workers! Let’s get kids politicking!

    At our Democracy Talks workshops we keep hearing that "you don't learn anything in civics class." But if you work with youth and you're looking for inspiration, or if you just want to know how to increase youth political participation, here are a few organizations that are doing great work..
  • March 27, 2013

    Democracy Talks Dispatch: making the personal political through civics

    “Engagement derived from passion and vested interest will be much more meaningful than engagement derived out of duty or obligation.” Meaghan Langille, a McMaster University and student and Democracy Talks participant, tells about her ideas for improving civics education.
  • March 25, 2013

    Introducing Democracy Talks

    Introducing Democracy Talks, a discussion series that brings people together – on campuses, in classrooms and around kitchen tables – to discuss politics and share ideas for improving civic and political engagement in Canada. Over the next six weeks we'll share insights and ideas from some of the great people we've met on the road.