Last Saturday, I went to the ChangeCamp event in Ottawa ( ) and hosted a discussion about: Participatory Democracy in our City — Shifting the morphogenic field of municipal governance.

Here are the notes from our discussion:

  • Look at government from a bigger perspective, e.g. systems thinking – and grow the organic entity of governance – don’t just deal with single issues.
  • We need an evolutionary process rather than just the back and forth that happens between each newly elected session of councilors.
  • Perhaps Open Data can make this smoother evolutionary process possible.
  • How do you engage people to use the tools?
    • Tenants often don’t vote.
    • Citizen comments need to be actioned for engagement.
    • To encourage participation, people need feedback on when their participation is not effective.
    • The messiness of policy-making needs to be part of the process.
      • There needs to be a conversation.
      • There needs to be space for people to change their minds.
      • It’s about the process.
      • All stakeholders need to be part of the research and analysis process. It doesn’t work if government starts consulting the public after all of the research is already done – because by then they are already committed to a particular course of action. And the consultation of the public is no longer really a consultation.
      • A methodology like Open Space Technology ( ) works better  than an executive style. However, until the “100th monkey” is on board, both styles will probably be deployed during the transition.
      • Perhaps it’s better to have a law of democratic selection 😉   — where councilors make decisions for their area, rather than single laws for the whole area with greatly differing needs.
      • Participation needs to be local and ongoing, where government feels that they are a participant who is also learning.