The future of representative democracy

Designed by the world-renowned, non-partisan team at DemocracyCo, the People’s House is a game-changing methodology which gives Members of Parliament (MPs) new tools to build trust and engage their electorates in the democratic process.

The People’s House empowers Members of Parliament to genuinely understand the sentiments of their constituents, including the voices that often go unheard. This enhanced understanding enables Members of Parliament (MP’s) to make informed decisions about how to better represent their electorates and ensure that they truly reflect the diversity and desires of their community. Additionally, The People’s House methodology promotes constructive dialogue helping MPs to build a stronger personal and professional presence, while fostering community awareness of their role. 

Using one of the People’s House methods to connect with their communities assists MPs to demonstrate their dedication to their community and leadership skills.

“I've seen people committed to every little step of getting this right and people who've never met each other before engaging with each other. It's fantastic. Absolutely worth my time.”

Alicia Payne MP, Member for Canberra
Trust-driven democracy 

Tools and strategies

Australia is the proud holder of an enviable and vibrant democratic tradition. But our democracy is facing growing challenges due to polarised communities, a lack of trust in politicians, and a lack of faith in democratic processes. Research tells us that trust in politicians, governments, and institutions is at its lowest level since 1993. Furthermore, our communities are becoming increasingly polarised, with views moving sharply to the right or left. This creates a perfect storm which makes meaningful reform near impossible, presenting risks to our system of democracy.

Traditional channels of communication between MPs and constituents can be reactive and transactional, focusing on managing grievances rather than fostering dialogue and understanding.

Opinion polling is often a case of ‘too little, too late’, conducted just before elections and focused on national issues or contested electorates. The diverse, nuanced views within most local communities often remain unearthed and unexplored.

This means that despite their best efforts, local MPs frequently find it challenging to attract positive attention, and face an increasingly complex task: understanding the diverse thoughts and desires of their increasingly polarised constituents, particularly those ‘quiet Australians’ who may not be vocal, yet make their opinions known at the ballot box.

This combination of factors results in a disconcerting democratic deficit. But we have an opportunity to energise representative democracy and give MP’s better opportunities to connect with and understand their electorate.

Our mission is help MPs to strengthen their relationship with the electorate; building trust, mutual understanding, and faith in the democratic process.

Making a difference

in Australia in 2023

Alicia Payne, Labor Member for Canberra

From Nov 2022 to May 2023, Federal MP for Canberra, Alicia Payne trialled The People’s House – The Canberra Forum. This bold move aimed to improve Payne’s engagement with her constituents and deepen her understanding of their needs, priorities, and proposed solutions to pressing local issues.

Aaron Violi, Liberal Member for Casey

In mid-2023, Federal MP for Casey, Aaron Violi trialled a People’s House approach to help the diversity of his community to talk together about the proposed ‘Voice to Parliament’ and to hear from First Nation leaders with both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ perspectives.

Central to the People’s House approach is involving a diverse group representative of the electorate. We ensure that the participants a representative mix in terms of age, gender, location, and voter preference (amongst other demographic criteria). Our delivery partner, the internationally renowned not-for-profit Sortition Foundation, recruits groups using a sophisticated democratic lottery, based on open-source software. You can learn more about the Sortition Foundation and the process of  ‘sortition’ here

“Thank you for all your brilliant work recruiting members to our Citizens’ Assembly. It was great to have such professional support for a vital part of the project.” (Alan, University College London, organiser of the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK)

Academic Advisors

Supporting democracyCo with the design of research about the effectiveness of The People’s House are: 

  • Dr Matteo Bonotti (Monash University)
  • Dr Zim Nwokora (Deakin University)
  • Professor Baogang He (Deakin University)
  • Emeritus Professor Janette Hartz-Karp (Curtin University)
  • Dr Narelle Miragliotta (Monash University)
  • Associate Professor Aaron Martin (University of Melbourne)
  • Dr Steven T. Zech (Monash University)
let's drive meaningful change together
Our work trialling People’s House has demonstrated that one model won’t suit all. As a consequence, we offer a suite of different People's House methods to support Members of Parliament in different circumstances, and with different budgets. We also offer opportunities for elected representatives outside of Australia to access The People's House methods.
Are you a for-purpose organisation, foundation or engagement practitioner?

You can support The People’s House and our mission to create a fairer, kinder, and more equitable world. Contact us to find out how.