Oct 13, 2022 • 1HR 2M

Building Democracies for the 21st Century | Matt Leighninger

Don't save democracy—improve it

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Rachel Donald
Planet: Critical is the podcast for a world in crisis. We face severe climate, energy, economic and political breakdown. Journalist Rachel Donald interviews those confronting the crisis, revealing what's really going on—and what needs to be done.
Episode details

“People want more more of a voice. They want want more choice. They want to be heard, and they don't just want to be represented. Most people are willing to leave 95% of the public realm to the officials, but there's the 5% that they want to be part of. Some of it is decisions that are setting the course for the community, the decisions that will influence other smaller decisions…Voting for another person to make those decisions does not give them a voice.”

Matt Leighninger is the Head of Democracy Innovation at the National Conference on Citizenship. A pioneer in democracy innovation, Matt’s spent the past 20 years working on improving our political processes, from creating citizens assemblies to bringing technology into a typically analogue space; he engineered the Text, Talk, Act campaign under Obama’s presidency to encourage active citizenship in the youth.


Matt joins me to discuss what we can do about our increasing polarized society, insisting we must move beyond thinking about “saving” democracy and focus our energies on improving it.

Explaining we currently run 21st century democracies with 20th century institutions, Matt introduces democratic innovations which are being used all over the world by cities and nations alike. He also explains the limitations elected officials face and the importance of deliberative processes in any democracy.

Planet: Critical investigates why the world is in crisis—and what to do about it.

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