Prof. Lyn Carson

Could there be a seismic shift in democratic politics ‘after’ COVID?

This is a record of Democracy ‘after’ COVID, a Zoom workshop hosted by Trust Democracy on 2 November 2021 and led by Prof. Lyn Carson, the Research Director of the newDemocracy Foundation. A video, some reflections about what happened, and some suggested actions are included.

A quick word on the title: Democracy ‘after’ COVID. Of course, in the literal sense, we aren’t through it yet and probably never will be … But ‘after’ in this case also means ‘following on from’ or ‘because of’. In the struggle to confront COVID, we’ve witnessed unprecedented responses from some of our most influential institutions who, in the past, have not always been noted for their ideological flexibility. These include central banks, treasuries and governments. Pretty much throwing out the neoliberal playbook, they did things virtually unthinkable as long ago as yesterday. In the non-aftermath of COVID-19, can democratic politics undergo a similar seismic shift?

Excerpt from John Pennington’s introduction

John Pennington, one of the main organisers of the workshop, and a Trust Democracy committee member, opened the event by explaining the workshop’s title. He then invited Carson to take the lead. By reflecting on the long- medium- and short- histories of democracy, Carson invited us to consider what sort of democratic institutions we could and should have ‘after’ COVID. 

Video of Democracy ‘after’ COVID
Audio version of Democracy ‘after’ COVID

Seismic Shift?

Are we seeing a ‘shift’ that’s ‘seismic’? The answer would be NO – neither central nor local government in Aotearoa New Zealand has shown much interest in catching the deliberative wave that is ‘sweeping’ other OECD countries.

What about a ‘shift’ in democratic politics? Trust Democracy thinks the answer is YES based on the number of people who registered (52) and took part in the workshop (35), and their experience and standing: quite a few had organised or were organising deliberative processes, many knew a lot about international initiatives, and many were in positions to influence change.

It was also very heartening to hear of some real initiatives. One was about educating senior local body officials and elected representatives about deliberative democracy. And another was about a civil society group working with an iwi, a local authority and community groups to learn about, design and organise a local citizens’ assembly. It was noted how quickly such plans can progress if the time is taken to develop relationships and shared understandings from the start. 

Who would you like to hear from about what?

Trust Democracy will organise future events. Please contact us about who you would like to hear from and about what. 

Some simple actions for democracy

  • Share the video and/or this blog post.
  • Talk to family, friends, colleagues and even strangers about some of the issues and ideas for democracy ‘after’ COVID.
  • Post a reply to this post if you have questions or comments about democracy ‘after’ COVID or the workshop.
  • Review and share Carson’s resource list for the workshop, see ‘Homework’ for Democracy.
  • Receive occasional newsletters from Trust Democracy, sign-up here.
  • Support Trust Democracy by applying to become a member here. Membership is by koha/gift.
  • For more background about the workshop, see Democracy ‘after’ COVID.

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