Background of the organization:
Founded in 2011, Ethelo is dedicated to advancing new forms of democracy using internet technology. Ethelo is comprised of two entities. First, Ethelo Decisions, a technology company dedicated to helping organizations focus collective intelligence to make good decisions more quickly; second, Ethelo Democracy, a non-profit society dedicated to a more effective, citizen-engaged democracy. Ethelo Decisions undertakes commercial projects to fund the development of the Ethelo technology, which is provided to Ethelo Democracy and its partners for the cost of hardware.
According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, Canadians have less trust in government, media, business and non-profits. We are becoming increasingly polarized as the gap in trust levels widens between the so-called “informed public” (defined by age, income, level of education and likelihood to follow the news) and the mass population. The result is that people feel distanced and less-trustful of each other — a situation that is further exacerbated by the polarizing effects of social media.
For democracy to enhance community wellbeing under these circumstances, citizens must have confidence not only in their civic institutions, but also in their neighbour and fellow community members. To share a healthy future, the public needs to be able to make informed, collective decisions.
The premise of digital democracy (also known as ‘eDemocracy’) is that the same technological tools that are undermining social cohesion can be used to advance the public good. eDemocracy tools can be used to conduct community conversations at a scale impossible to achieve in person; expand voting options to include multiple choices; rapidly gather and share new information with key stakeholders and the public; and support processes like participatory budgeting.
A grant from the Foundation will support Ethelo Democracy to engage community and public sector partners in collaborative, inclusive approaches to revitalizing democratic processes and institutions. During the two-year grant period, activities will include:
- Engagement with Canadians in an online negotiation process to define a CanadianGreen New Deal that will have broad support across populations groups and geographies.
- A partnership with Salon Politic to combine in-person sessions on policy issues with online collective decision-making to create an open public policy platform.
- Collaboration with Open North to provide complementary services to governments and organizations interested in citizen budgeting.
- Promotion and support of its platform to non-profits, citizen groups and public agencies that want to inform public policy and legislative change.