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Democracy Is More Than Just Holding Elections

John Gaventa

Wouldn’t you like to give those in power a report card?

This is what citizen engagement looks like, and it’s possible for all of us, according to John Gaventa, head of the Coady International Institute.

Because democracy means more than just holding elections. “It’s being involved in between elections, throughout the whole policy process—from what should be worked on to what the policies are to how they’re funded, to whether or not the money reaches your communities,” says Gaventa.

That’s where the work of organizations like Coady come in. They equip ordinary people to have a voice in shaping their communities, their environment, and the decisions that affect their everyday lives. From schools to garbage collection to electrical power to the environment.

“Right now, we have to be aware that some have a lot more power than others, and some voices count a lot more than others,” he says. “A lot of what we’re trying to do is to equalize that playing field.”

The Coady International Institute is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

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