Giving Compass' Take:

• Hollie Russon Gilman, K. Sabeel Rahman, & Elena Souris argue that we should retire conventional civic engagement tactics such as canvassing and signing petitions and instead employ tactics that invigorate long-term democratic opportunity. 

• Are you ready to take on a role in strengthening democracy? What are the most pressing needs in your community? 

• Read more about philanthropy in the service of democracy.

Conventional civic-engagement activities such as canvassing, registering voters, signing petitions, and voting are largely transient experiences, offering little opportunity for civic participation once the election is over. And such tactics often do little to address the background conditions that make participation more difficult for marginalized communities.

To address these issues, civil society organization and local governments should build more long-term and durable democratic infrastructure, with the aim of empowering constituencies to participate in meaningful and concrete ways, overcoming division within our societies, and addressing a general distrust of government by enhancing accountability.

Achieving this more-robust form of democracy will require that many different communities—including organizers and advocacy groups, policymakers and public officials, technologists, and funders—combine their efforts.

Developing more participatory and inclusive policymaking processes: For many marginalized communities, the day-to-day operations of government are opaque, unaccountable, and unresponsive. And for many government officials, the demands of public service, particularly in the face of ever-decreasing resources and budgets, is daunting enough without having to face new mandates for transparency. Yet some of the most promising areas of governance reform lie in new institutions that effectively fuse public participation with effective city policymaking.

New models of cross-coalition organizing: A healthy democracy also requires on-the-ground community organizing to empower individuals and communities, enabling them to engage in advocacy and policymaking. At a time when civic engagement and political discourse has become increasingly polarized, community organizing is critical in creating new forms of shared identity, conversation, and solidarity.

Read the full article on democratic infrastructure by Hollie Russon Gilman, K. Sabeel Rahman, & Elena Souris at Stanford Social Innovation Review.