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Can we do democracy differently?

18 April 2017

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If you're dissatisfied with the current state of democracy but not sure how it could be improved, a podcast by PhD student Nivek Thompson could be for you.

At the Real Democracy Now! podcast you'll hear from experts and activists as well as everyday people about how democracy works and how it can be improved.

Nivek’s research is looking into how political elites such as politicians, senior public servants, understand and respond to democratic innovations, specifically deliberative mini-publics.

Nivek was fascinated with the various movements around the world like the Occupy Movement, Arab Spring or Indignados that were calling for, amongst other things, ‘real democracy’.

So in 2011 she decided to start a PhD on democratic innovation to investigate what real democracy might look like and how it could be achieved.

Nivek has always worked in areas where citizen and member engagement were important. She was reading and thinking about how to improve democracy and wanted to bring her thinking together to ‘make a difference’.

Nivek’s research aims to help solve the wide-spread dissatisfaction with the institutions of representative democracy. Most work around alternative approaches to democracy has focused on democratic innovations as stand alone initiatives supplementing the existing system. Whilst there are clear benefits to be achieved from adding new institutions to the existing ones, Nivek’s view is that to reduce the dissatisfaction with institutions of representative democracy, those very institutions needed to change.

Nivek loves learning and being exposed to so many ideas about democracy - both it’s problems and potential through her PhD studies. “I realise how lucky I am to be able to devote a lot of my time to reading and thinking about these things, and speaking to people working in this field” she says.

Nivek's aim with the Real Democracy Now! podcast, is to provide people outside of academia, who are interested in improving democracy, with information about different ways of approaching democratic reform.

The first season of the podcast, looked at deliberative mini-publics, often called citizens’ juries, which are a very popular democratic innovation around the world and particularly in Australia.

Season 2 is considering representative democracy - what works, what doesn’t, and how it might be improved.

If you care about democracy subscribe to the Real Democracy Now! podcast and join the discussion on the website, on Twitter and on Facebook. Let Nivek know what you think about democracy and what you would like covered in future seasons.

You can access the Real Democracy Now! podcast via iTunes at http://bit.ly/RDNpodcast or Stitcher:  http://bit.ly/RDN_Stitcher