Democracy Is More Than Just Holding Elections

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.”

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“A lot of what we're trying to do is to equalize that playing field.”
So powerful and eye catching statement , but impractical in reality.

En nuestro País Ecuador, es parte vital la participación ciudadana en cada uno de los niveles, como veedores ciudadanos que monitoreo constante de las políticas sociales del gobierno e inclusive es la sociedad civil quien tiene abierta participación en la creación del presupuesto participativo local y los gobernantes deben acatar.

From Africa's perspective in particular, citizenship engagement and democratic processes are directly related with the day-to-day lives of African youth. It includes how 'elections' are being used to co-opt youth, how youth are exercising their power as social actors to negotiate their meaningful position in the entire spheres of society, and how new spheres of citizenship practices like social media are becoming the alternative platforms of collective action and influencing the mainstream politics from the margins. I hope both OSF and Coady International Institute capture these dynamics of youth, citizenship and democracy in Africa.

“A lot of what we're trying to do is to equalize that playing field.” No doubt,it's a great initiative and ideally it should be the situation. But the question remains, like ' is there any life before democracy and also after democracy?'. India the world's largest democracy though least likely democratic is going through the biggest electoral process ever in the history of parliamentary elections in the country.The 815 million electorates have no role either before or after the election other than casting the vote on the scheduled day of the election. Attempts to answer these type of questions often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with a some what prickly, combative defense of democracy. It's flawed, it isn't perfect, but it's better than everything else that's on offer. Democracy is a working model: western liberal democracy and India like countries are its variants. Let me conclude the lengthy comment with a Kashmiri protestor's placard which said "the world's largest demon-crazy': Democracy without Justice=Demon Crazy'.

In South Africa we are witnessing our communities voicie their opions through social media and protests. Indeed, we as citizens must get involved by accessing and studying the IDP documents prepared by the Municipalty of our constituency.

We must monitor the progress and hold the Councillors and Mayors Accountable. The more pro active we are as citizen, the more we can eradicate fraud and corruption and witness positive change in our Municipalities.

This will send a message to government on Local, Provincial and National Level.

In South Africa we can report matters of concern through the Presidential Hotline and The Public Protectors Office.

We should consider setting up A score card against the Municipalty's IDP report and measure the actions of the political parties for a better future.

Very well put and necessary in order to change things for the better; People can make good things happen and also can allow bad things to happen. A simple choice of the two can make a great difference.

sometimes, I wonder if there is even need to hold elections! Elections are very costly and we know well in advance who will win. If at all the elections budget line could be spent to build road, health facilities and enhance citizen access to potable water, etc.

Yes Eyob Balcha may be right on youth / citizenship engagement and democratic processes however, it's worth noting that in most instances; in most African Countries including Uganda my own Country, Governments become very concerned with youth engagement in democratic process when nearing election periods, during electoral processes, and are dumped immediately after the elections. Even then, youth with differing opinions from that of the ruling parties, are always leveled terrorists, and arrested and dumped in presions! This is where John Gaventa is correct in saying that Democracy is not just about election, it's must be a continuously routine engagement of citizens through out the cycle of the democratic processes - offering level grounds and respect for all - actions which must be consciously designed to be all inclusive - by those in authority. Those, save for limited civic education among the rural youth, are some of the key gaps still hindering citizen engagement in democratic process in Africa.

In a democracy we have an obligation to resist powerlessness. Citizen and community engagement are the vehicles for acting on this obligation. The real targets for citizen engagement are elected and appointed public officials whose actions are driven by a deep commitment to corporate profits, not to public well being.

I could be wrong; but democracy today may not be what it was intended to be when it was dreamt up. It seems more like an illusion thanks to today's politicians and failings of modern capitalism. Democracy needs to be more closely tied with equality as a standard and to echo the African voices here, African youth need to be exposed to forums and societies like this to reverse the trend we currently find ourselves in.

As a human rights activist and advocate enjoying all these rights we have in the U.S, I try to spend my time educating members of my humble background who still live in my country of origin where the unrest continue the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When people are aware or become knowledgeable about what an idea of voicing out against gross or small violations, despite oppression, if not in someone life time, later people can still live in harmony and peace if leaders are hold accountable for what they promise or what they have to take care off on behalf of those who elect them in power.
I am glad to see such a well done video and many I saw before this. Keep it up., you are helping in the task we are all have in trying or contributing to make this world a better place.

Democracy Is More Than Just Holding Elections it's important that the measures of democracy are challenged from the background they are exercised. When countries hold elections and transition of power is peaceful the western world have be blinded to voice out that the elections were democratic.

Democracy goes beyond elections indeed as the test of it all comes after the elections are over. By the way what is democracy?

Democracy as a concept should be likened to the respect of human rights and human diginity. In a situation where officials of the electoral commission are composed of members of the ruling party, laws that are enacted curtail freedom of association such as the Public and Management Order law in Uganda, one cannot expect a level playing field. Citizen involvement to understand the scenario and to overturn the anti people legislations is imperative.

what is in evidence is that election is the time to build up a line of new beneficiaries to replace those voted out! For voters any time to receive cash from the leaders is from in- between the elections. The fight is to seek self gratification not the common good. corruption blinds ideals.

democracy is more than just elections but since money has taken over all interests many people just look for means to pick money than take responsibilities that democracy imparts to them.

Yes, Democracy is not granted we have to gain it day by day. "Little problem" in some European countries, the public debt transfers decision to finance, which is not accountable.

YourVoice party had a similar concept but it all falls down when those who can muster the biggest voices (crooks and hippies) dominate the conversation. There needs to be proper random samples and trust that they are indeed random. Regardless..since we lack the authority to revoke authorisation contract of those who break their mandate contract..we're playing at the wrong end. Stop voting for strangers who refuse to be accountable to their mandate..or stand as the honest representative who will..even if just on a few democratic policies such as parliamentary recall on voting against mandate.

its my first time to hear about your OSF and it has helped so much on my political program as a new presenter. Yes our people need to exercise their powers especially within our parties. We do not have power over elected people once they are in parliament. they can make laws that suits them without our concern.

The problem is that in Africa we have narrowed elections into Participation without giving due consideration of what infuences participation in elections --- Money, Brutal History, Police/Army wips, Manipulation and intimidation and rather who counts the ballots, do the ballots count in final results declaration

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