Democracy Talks Update: Building democratic engagement

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Democracy Talks Update: Building democratic engagement

by Jennifer Phillips | Jun 04, 2014

With all the excitement surrounding the release of our bestselling book, Tragedy in the Commonswe're overdue in updating you on Samara's other work! In particular, we want to update you on our public outreach program, Democracy Talks(DT).

For those new to Samara's work, DT builds democratic engagement by providing a community-based, non-partisan forum for people to have their ideas heard, hear from other members of their community and develop their political voice. This premise is based on research that suggests approaching people only at election time is not always effective at raising turnout.

Samara believes our democracy is strongest when people’s voices are heard. DT provides Canadians, including young people and newcomers, with a platform to discuss how politics can better reflect their daily lives. For a more detailed account of the first phase of DT, read Alison's article in The Philanthropist, "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About."

-The Samara Team

What's new with Democracy Talks

We're building partnerships with organizations who deliver this program to their members independently, allowing DT to reach a larger and wider range of participants. To date, Samara has trained over 50 staff from agencies and organizations across the GTA to lead DT discussions within their community groups.


Some of the highlights have been:

North York Community House: Training NYCH staff on the concept and approach of DT, and co-developing material specifically adapted to their programs. So far, over 250 people have participated.

Agincourt Community Services Association: Supporting ACSA's Civic Awareness Project, which is aimed at increasing civic participation among newcomers in Scarborough.

Elections Canada: Joining Elections Canada as they host a series of workshops across Canada for youth-serving organizations, where DT is featured as a model of successful democratic engagement. These workshops allow us to connect with local and regional organizations from Halifax to Vancouver.

Further, Samara is working with Toronto Neighbourhood CentresSocial Planning Toronto and Maytree to use the upcoming municipal elections to build interest in and capacity for ongoing democratic engagement among community-based organizations.

Check out the new website!

The DT pages on Samara's website have been revamped!

• Read about how and why DT works.

• If you're a member of a community group and wonder if DT is a way to engage your members, check out this page.

• See a full list of partners.

DT is also active on Samara's blog. Read the latest posts on DT events happening now, such as this post on a DT event with 250 youth at Queen's Park last week in honour of "Children and Youth in Care Day."

Our funders

This important work is possible thanks to the generous support of DT's funders: those pictured above along with the Panicaro Foundation and many other individual donors.

If you, too, would like to bring new and different voices to politics, please consider joining our funders by making a donation to Samara today.

What's next?

• Evaluation: We will formally evaluate the DT program at NYCH and Agincourt Community Services, and report on what helps encourage greater participation.

• Expansion: A training session for the YMCA of the GTA is planned for the fall, and we are cultivating new partnerships outside Ontario.

• Animation! Among other great new resources for DT participants, we're creating a short video that will help explain the heart of the program.

Three last things happening at Samara

• Civics in Action: The new grade 10 civics text book from McGraw Hill Ryerson, which Samara was an advisor on, and which features DT guides and many of our youth Everyday Political Citizens, will be in classrooms this September.

• Our blog: Did you know we post two to three blog posts a week? Whether as part of a blog series like ‘How’d you get that job?,’ which describes how political insiders landed in their roles, or a guest post from a volunteer, we regularly post original content. Follow our blog.

The Everyday Political Citizen Project: Our favourite project celebrating the un-sung heroes of politics returns this summer! Start thinking about who you'll nominate.