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Democratic Innovation

Exploring the role of politicians in championing and institutionalizing democratic innovations. 

Check out our Politicians' Democratic Innovators
Hall of Fame

It's time for a democracy update. We have 18th-century politics, 19th-century institutions, and 20th-century technology at a time of 21st-century challenges and opportunities. With trust in politicians and institutions in decline all over the world, new ways of doing democracy are clearly needed.

Democratic innovations have been adopted in incremental and piecemeal fashion and are becoming increasingly popular, widespread, and valuable to the work of elected officials. However, relatively few politicians actively adopt and champion them.

The purpose of our work on this topic is to find a new way forward, rooted in three principles: 

  1. That politicians have an essential role to play in protecting and reviving democracy, 

  2. that democratic innovation is essential, and 

  3. that these two principles must be brought together.

We are currently finalizing a guide for politicians of all parties and countries, and the people who work closely with them, to help them make the most of the opportunities offered by Democratic Innovation. 

What's a Democratic Innovation?

“Any process that empowers citizens to meaningfully shape societies, surpassing the conventional acts of voting in elections and referenda, and responding to consultations.”

Our Work


Leaders or Latecomers: Exploring the role of politicians in democratic innovation

This research report is a contribution to research and practice in the rapidly evolving field of democratic innovation. Although there is substantial research on democratic innovation, there’s limited focus on politicians’ roles. We aim to understand their current role and explore potential future roles, especially for those likely to champion democratic innovation but haven’t yet.


Pioneering Practitioners: Democratic Innovation Organizations to Watch.

This list recognizes organizations that support politicians to empower citizens and develop better policies for people and the planet. If you know an organization that should be on the list, let us know at



Circular Power Politics, A Politician’s Guide to Five Opportunities to Lead With and For the People.


This toolkit offers guidance and case studies on how elected leaders can adopt, champion and adapt democratic innovations such as citizens’ assemblies, participatory budgeting, digital crowdsourcing and more to channel citizen power and strengthen their democracies.


The report and guide were co-authored and researched by Omezzine Khelifa, at the time Executive Director of the Apolitical Foundation Accelerator and Jon Alexander, Co-Founder of the New Citizen Project and author of Citizens: Why The Key To Fixing Everything Is All Of Us.

Advisory Council


Graca Fonseca

Minister and Member of Parliament, Portugal

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Matt Leighninger

Director, Center for Democracy Innovation, National Civic League

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Thomas Asher

Senior Fellow, Office of Management and Budget, 

White House,

United States

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Tiago C. Peixoto

Senior Public Sector Specialist, World Bank, Serbia


Marjan Ehsassi

Future of Democracy Fellow (non-resident), Berggruen Institute

Do you want to get involved with our democratic innovation work?

This project is supported by the Open Society Foundations. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Society Foundations.

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