Big Democracy Lab

The Problem with Democracy

People’s participation in our democracy is hindered by unequal access and structures that are hard to navigate. In Big Democracy the public sets the agenda, society designs solutions for those most in need, and institutions are directly accountable to the public.

New animation explores the complexity of people’s participation in democracy.

The Solution

The truth is that it’s not easy to solve the complex problems we’re faced with today. Engaging the public beyond the ballot box requires new infrastructure and skills that support the public in coming together to lift up its knowledge and make meaning together. We believe that recent social change movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy, are a response to this lack of infrastructure for meaningful participation. Our guiding design principle is to design for the margins—the people for whom the current systems work the least. Race, gender, class, language, legal status, and physical ability are some of the relevant demographics factors of people at the margins.

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is helping to turn patterns of exclusion into participation that makes a difference in decision-making. We do this by designing new interactions that bring the public together to influence how large systems function. For over 20 years, IISC has helped people collaborate for sustainable, just, and equitable communities. The practice of Big Democracy brings people together across power imbalances and binding traditions bind to discover solutions to seemingly entrenched social problems.

Get Involved

Over the next three years, we will host a Democracy Lab to spread the concept, build networks, and support the prototyping of new products and services. Our focus is building democratic engagement and infrastructure driven by designing for the margins, in cities in the United States and globally. We will offer a series of Big Democracy experiences that get people excited about meaningful democratic engagement.

We expect this project to result in a higher standard for public engagement focused on the government’s responsibility to ensure equity in participation, access, and resources—and infrastructures, frameworks, and tools that transform the world. We are raising $3 million to support this work over the next three years. For more information, please contact Cyndi Suarez, Director of Development + Strategic Partnerships, 617 320 9393 or