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Why philanthropy needs to plan for the long game…
230 years ago, almost to the day, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, along with 48 other merchants, lawyers, plantation owners and businessmen sat together to draft the Constitution of the United States of America. To this day, this admirable intellectual feat has shaped democracies around the world. But it has also reached its limits.
Augmenting representative democracy with digital tools allowing a more continuous conversation with citizens and relevant stakeholders – aka ‘civic tech’ – is now urgent and promising. But do such technologies “provide equal opportunities for the participation of citizens in decisions”, to use the measure of democracy proposed by Robert Dahl, one of its most prominent scholars? Because this is not the case yet, this paper argues how philanthropy should mobilise fast, with determination and over the long-term to maximise the potential of e-participation, as (a) such potential is far from being fulfilled, (b) e-participation is still in its infancy, and (c) new methodologies and technologies will bring additional challenges.