Democracy Talks

Democracy Talks


Democracy Talks has moved!

The program is now housed at the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University under the new Democratic Engagement Exchange. Visit the Exchange website for the latest tools and resources.

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.[1]  

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.[2]  

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!

    [1] Samara, “Samara's Democracy 360” March, 2015.  39% of Canadians report not having had a conversation about politics in the last year.

    [2] 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.

    Democracy Talks Funders





    Democracy Talks in the News

    Democracy Talks on the Blog

    • April 15, 2015

      Samara's Exciting April News

      So far April has been a great month for Samara: we were recently awarded an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and the search has begun for three exceptional individuals to join the Samara team!
    • November 05, 2014

      Meeting Mr. Lee

      Today’s post is from Samara Outreach Manager John Beebe’s recent west-coast excursion. John took the time to discover the beautiful city that Vancouver is and met a man who further confirmed his reflection that Canada is bursting with democratic vitality.
    • June 04, 2014

      Democracy Talks Update: Building democratic engagement

      Lots has been happening with our public outreach program, Democracy Talks. Get all the updates about what's happened, what's happening and what's next here! You'll also find a few more updates about Samara.
    • June 02, 2014

      Cooking up Democracy in Canada

      Samara volunteer Shifa Tauqir reflects on a recent Democracy Talks workshop and how growing up in Pakistan sparked her passion for promoting civic engagement among newcomers in Canada.
    • May 27, 2014

      The Sound of Democracy

      Democracy Talks went to Queen's Park last week in honour of "Children and Youth in Care Day." Read on to learn more about Democracy Talks and why we think it works.