Tag Archives: Democracy

The Co-evolution of Connected Citizens in Canadian Governance

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Can we motivate civil society to form a collaborative approach to Canadian governance?

 How will governing – public decision making – be influenced through citizens evolving new digital and place-based channels?

The January DwD was a public workshop convened by OCADU’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) as part of our ongoing SSHRC-sponsored action research conducted during 2014.  We hosted 25 participants in reframing and representing key challenges and future innovations that might influence civic participation and governing across Canadian government sectors.  A current model of the Gigamap (large-scale system map) as a departure point for participant contributions, you can contribute to the discourse by building on and critiquing the findings of a recent major workshop via card sort and dialogue mapping.


Governance in our digital era is a central challenge facing government institutions and societies in the coming decades where information ownership is uncertain, power is dispersed, and authority and accountability need to be reconceived. Last November  we convened a diverse group of practitioners, policy experts and academics to explore how digital technology and new flows of information have been influencing governance and government practice, and where it might have potential to more significantly transform analysis, engagement, policy, service delivery, and accountability.   We are seeking many perspectives on the promise and concerns of digital engagement, and the positive possibilities for designing and delivering public policy and services. We want to hear your views on how governments at all levels in Canada might re-conceive various governance practices as digital tools and practices continue to evolve.


We are interested in discovering how the practices and expectations of governance are and will be shifting from the vantage point of citizens and other stakeholders, communities, and sectors. We aim to explore how Canada – with all of its levels of government and regional diversity – might evolve as a basis for considering how government practices ought to transform.

Gmap KK baseline-sm







Digital era governance can be understood from a technology-centric viewpoint or a governing practices perspective, which largely colours the values and strategies under discussion. Since the start of the Internet era, governments have sought greater efficiencies and interaction with citizens and stakeholders.  Digital governance includes issues such as citizen rights and uses of data, the questions of government control through ICT, and the online management of benefits and services. It is now simple to pay parking tickets online. But understanding the core issues and arguments in legislation remains as murky as ever. Is it fair to suggest that digital rights may filter the power of citizen access?

We asked participants to do some homework to familiarize themselves with some of the issues and trends in “digital governance” and the larger trends concerning Canadian government relevant to discussions.

Gigamaps:  The Gigamap presented at the Ottawa conference was displayed in the workshop as an evolving model. Final visual maps may appear more like this online Gigamap on the Circular Economy from a student team in our OCADU SFI course. Maps may include system diagrams as found in this student project on the adaptation of veterans to civilian life http://resetremembrance.ca


Deep Democracy

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Deep Democracy: Transforming Conflict into Collaboration

By Leah Snyder –  Mixed Bag Mag

Idle No More made Canadians more aware that there is some tough dialoguing to be done around the historical as well as the present day impact of broken treaties and residential schools. Many people have become entrenched around the issues of land and resources. As someone who writes about contemporary Canadian culture, including both Immigrant and Indigenous perspectives, I am interested in exploring how best to facilitate spaces of understanding between disparate positions which is why I was drawn to Design with Dialogue’s January event.

Deep Democracy is well…deep! Because of the complexity of the methodology the evening’s facilitator, Violetta Ilkiw, was only able skim the surface as to how it works. Violetta explained “facts don’t convince people.” If they did geopolitical spaces would easily shift to become more humane places.

So if facts don’t motivate people towards solutions what does? In a nutshell Deep Democracy is about emotionally moving people towards a place “where the polarities drop away momentarily”. DD is about arriving there to then sit with intent, hold that moment and use it as a way to bring us (safely) out of our entrenched positions. This is where I believe DD shows promise as a tool for facilitation – it understands the role that the dynamics of energy play and offers a methodology to shift the energy.

It sounds simple, and in a way it is. It has a lot to do with storytelling and having people share their own stories in order to find common ground – children, homeland, loss and abandonment. When storytelling is combined with the acknowledgement of the importance of energy dynamics, DD facilitators can work to move pain, trauma, and fear out of the body quite simply by moving the body. Subtle, unconscious, non-verbal cues are monitored by the facilitator and participants are encouraged to physically move during the sessions. One such exercise is the Soft Shoe Shuffle.

“involves a group standing around and someone makes a statement, typically in response to a powerful question put to the group. When someone makes the statement all other people either move towards that person if they agree with it, or move away from the person if they disagree with it…” (The Art of Hosting website)

During the exercise the participants may ‘shuffle’ back and forth between the person making the statement and someone else offering a counter argument. The purpose of the Soft Shoe Shuffle is to demonstrate that our positions are not fixed – we can be fluid and also truthful about how we feel. This fluidity allows us to understand our pliability around varying perspectives including those that arrive from inside ourselves.

Again, this may sound simple but when it comes to people taking a position out of emotion rather than making their decision based on facts you are dealing with individuals in a vulnerable state, perhaps feeling that if they show weakness in their convictions they are, in a way, internally threatening themselves. We are emotional beings often engaging in the world through our fears and desires – that’s a fact! If we can find a methodology of facilitation that accommodates this then there is power to move (emotional) mountains.


Sketchnotes by Charlotte Young

About the Session

Conflict is a common aspect of all our lives. Deep Democracy is a conceptual framework for analyzing group dynamics and conflict, and a set of methods for facilitating group interactions. In Deep Democracy, conflict is seen as an opportunity for growth and transformation.

The process of Deep Democracy values diverse leadership, bringing to the forefront voices that are not usually heard or can become lost in traditional decision-making models. The process focuses on the health and quality of participation – not just on how many people participate.

Deep Democracy training relies on building self-awareness, empathy and honesty. It is one of the few methods of facilitator training that focuses both on facilitator development and on tools and methods for facilitating conflict. The process helps us become stronger collaborative leaders, access the strength of any group, surface conflict and work toward more holistic community & group outcomes.

For January, the first event of the 2014 DwD series, we explored:

  • The basic principles of Deep Democracy
  • Ways and steps toward conflict resolution
  • Ways to explore conflict within ourselves
  • How to utilize these basic skills to ground ourselves as facilitators, in working with conflictual situations whether these are interpersonal, in small groups or in organizations.
Violetta Ilkiw brings 20+ years of facilitation experience, with a particular interest and focus on participatory multi-stakeholder processes. Her work is grounded in adult education principles, Art of Hosting & process design, and she is driven by a desire to see fundamental systemic shifts and change, ultimately resulting in healthier communities. Violetta has also acted as senior consultant to the Laidlaw Foundation for the past 14 years, and has been integral to bringing strategic vision, design, innovation and increased collaboration into the Foundation’s work with young people. Violetta is currently in the final year of a 3-year Masters in conflict facilitation and organizational change at the Process Work Institute in Portland, OR.