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Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

PAIR continues its collaboration with Participedia phase 2, a Global platform for participatory democracy initiatives

Published: 15 June 2021
Image of Participedia members logos

Participedia, a global resource for participatory democracy now based at McMaster University, has received a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to expand its reach and impact.

Participedia  was co-founded in 2009 by Archon Fung at Harvard University and Mark Warren at the University of British Columbia. The project is an international network of researchers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers who use an open-access crowdsourcing platform, similar to Wikipedia, to share research and information about democratic initiatives around the world.

Dr. Spada and Dr. Ryan from PAIR are among the oldest members of the core development team and have contributed to the project for the past 10 years. PAIR teaches two classes, Reinventing Democracy at the undergraduate level, and Collective Intelligence at the Masters level, that are directly connected to the Participedia Project. The students enrolled in these classes become Participedia Project researchers and write a case study for the platform.

This new phase of Participedia’s research brings together 63 researchers from 22 universities and 21 organizations across 12 countries. 

During Phase 1 of the project, which also received a $2.5 million grant from SSHRC, contributors compiled the largest database of its kind, with more than 1,800 cases and 330 methods of participatory democracy around the world on These range from deliberative “mini-publics” (e.g. citizens’ assemblies) and popular assemblies (e.g. participatory budgeting), to protests, e-democracy, and land reform movements. 

Working with funding from SSHRC and other sources, Phase 2 of Participedia will build on the work of the past six years. In addition to its initial focus on participatory governance, the project’s network will expand its focus to include five new areas:

  • Human rights
  • Democratic accountability
  • Democratic representation
  • Democracy across borders
  • Democracy and digital communications

In particular, the next phase of work will focus on the challenges of democracy in the Global South, which refers broadly to the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Researchers and contributors will also address how non-Western democratic innovations are documented and analyzed by researchers.

“In many cases, people have been innovating for decades, but there are long standing inequities in how their work is understood by Western researchers” says the PI Ibhawoh at McMaster University in Canada. “As well, we want to document civic engagement even in places that aren’t traditional democracies, like China – our primary interest is citizens and their investment in their government.”  

Ibhawoh, who chairs the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, points out that while global political turmoil may make headlines, Participedia’s work shows that plenty is being done to counteract the spread of authoritarianism and populist nationalism – and provides resources for those who want to continue that work around the world.

“Ordinary people working at the grassroots are innovating and organizing out of the global spotlight,” he says. “Initiatives across the world that Participedia has highlighted, like participatory budgeting, citizen activism, and new ways of integrating Indigenous law and practices into the governance of settler-colonial states, show us that democracy is being defended in countless creative ways. It is up to us to make sure their efforts are shared as widely as possible.” 

Partner organizations include McMaster University, Admiralty University of Nigeria, Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning, Carleton University, Centre for Policy Research, Colorado State University, Deakin University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration, Harvard University, Innovation for Policy Foundation, Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability, Obafemi Awolowo University, Public Affairs Research Institute, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, Simon Fraser University, Social Equity and Participant Center, St. Francis Xavier University, Syracuse University, United Nations University, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Universität Stuttgart, Université de Montréal, University of Alberta, University of Arkansas, University of British Columbia, University of Canberra, University of North Carolina at Asheville, University of Saskatchewan, University of Southampton, University of Sussex, University of the Western Cape, University of Toronto, University of Toronto-Scarborough, University of Westminster, Wilfrid Laurier University, and WZB Berlin Social Science Center. 


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