We know that democracy is in a perilous place. The values of democratic practice are being undermined by disinformation being spread on social media, corruption, pursuit of self interest of those with power and wealth, conflict and horrendous human rights abuses. Even in the US, a historic beacon of democracy, we are seeing significant threats to the democratic values which were so hard won.
During the last week, 29 researchers and practitioners gathered in Dayton Ohio at the Foundation to explore how we can ramp up the activity of the international network. In the last 2 years, during covid, Kettering have been meeting at a regional level – to discuss how to build and strengthen the network, so each of us can do our important work in our home countries. This meeting was our first face to face meeting in over two years, designed to spend a week reflecting and planning together.
During the week we heard from a colleague in Guatemala – who works with the Myrna Mack Foundation to build a critical citizenry that seeks a democratic rule of law based on citizen participation, security and justice. His work is dangerous, and when he is working in communities progressing democratic practice he is risk of danger for himself and those he works with.
We also heard from Mihai Lupu from Romania (Educab International). His work is usually focussed on promoting civics education through the education system in Romania – but right now he is coordinating the NGO’s in Romania who are collectively processing refugees who arrive in the country.
We were fortunate to have as part of our cohort, Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman, The Hon Donna Parchment Brown – who’ role it is to help protect citizens against violation of their rights, abuse of powers, error, negligence, unfair decisions and mal-administration in the political arena, that would impact on the overall administration of the country as it advances. What a challenging and rewarding role…
We shared our work in deliberative engagement with the network – and together we used our collective experiences to lift up and reflect on how we can build a strong community of practice, of people all over the world, who are working to strengthen democratic practice.
One of the key A-ha moments which resonated with us was a comment made by Ketterings’ new CEO and President Sharon Davies when she said:
“Fragmentation of the population is a key weapon used against democracy – it lulls the public into thinking they don’t have power” ~ Sharon Davies, Kettering CEO & President
Our work in Australia and overseas is focussed on ensuring that fragmentation is not successful – and that we find ways for people to come together, as one collective, to deliberate on what is important to them. Now more than ever our work is needed.
It’s a changing time for democracy and in turn the Kettering Foundation – and the urgency has ramped up. We are excited to be a part of building this new, stronger and more collaborative network.
We will be more effective in pursuing our collective mission to safeguard democracy by working together than working alone.