Reclaiming Democracy: A Plea for Political Entrepreneurship

Source: Lisa Witter & Catherine de Vries, Stanford Social Innovation Review, October 31, 2013

We face daunting challenges, but political institutions cannot cope; it’s time to shake up the system.

The recent shutdown of the American government uncovers not only the width of the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans, but also a much more fundamental problem facing electoral democracies around the globe.

We are witnessing a crisis of political representation and accountability throughout the advanced industrial world and emerging markets. Citizens are deserting the political arena. Governments are in a stalemate. Trends of low electoral turnout, increasing electoral volatility, and shrinking political party and voluntary movement membership are just some of the symptoms.

Many factors contribute to this crisis, but five different-yet-interrelated phenomena are central to it: myopia, unaccountability, complexity, the decline of political parties, and a talent deficit.