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ThinkPlace's democracy card game

Strengthening democracy in Australia

Many Australians are disenchanted with democracy. Surveys point to feelings of disconnection from government and a lack of trust in politicians and public institutions. The Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA) at the University of Canberra have been exploring these issues and looking at ways to strengthen democracy and increase citizen engagement with government.
Client
Museum of Australian Democracy and Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis
Service
Design for policy
Project Team
Nina  Terrey's profile'
Topics
Design thinkinggamification
Event attendees play the democracy card game

Over the past two years, MoAD and the IGPA surveyed Australians on their attitudes towards Australian democracy. Calling it the Power of Us Survey, they polled 1244 Australians and 10 focus groups representing a cross-section of society. 

As part of celebrations for the 90th anniversary of Old Parliament House, the IGPA and MoAD recently held the Democracy 100 You Can Make a Difference dinner event. Australian business, political, academic and community leaders gathered to consider the state of democracy in the country and hear a panel discussion with Bob Hawke and John Howard, chaired by Annabel Crabb.

ThinkPlace was invited to join the event and help promote discussion on what Australians value in democratic institutions. Between mains and dessert, we facilitated a design thinking activity, handing each table a deck of 50 cards. The cards contained attitudes of Australians towards democracy, reflected in the Power of Us Survey and a pre-event survey of diners.

Attendees were asked two questions: What do you think are Australia's most important democratic values? What should be the responsibilities of a democracy champion?

Using the cards, the tables ranked the ideas raised by the survey participants in order of importance. Attendees rediscovered democratic values and then collaboratively defined the responsibilities of a democratic champion.

In the words of Geraldine Doogue, ‘the game turned out to be considerable fun’. Combining gamification with design thinking principles of empathy, understanding and discovery, it stimulated deep discussion on the state of Australian governance and explored steps that could be taken to strengthen our democracy. 

Some attendees suggested the cards could be used to stimulate conversations and learning in schools, a suggestion worth pursuing.

By identifying citizen concerns with government and public institutions, and through discussion such as at the Democracy 100 event, the IPGA and the MoAD are gathering the elements of a Charter for Democratic Practice. This charter will be based on authentic democratic values, which will allow all Australians to participate in and strengthen democracy in the 21st century.

Quote

Australia has come a long way for a young country. We are a great democracy but I think we take a lot for granted. I do think democracy is under attack. If you look at all the democracies in our backyard with the exception of New Zealand they are all vulnerable. It’s our responsibility to make our democracy stronger.

- The Power of Us Survey respondent