Practising Democracy as if the Public Matters


Tuesday 30 June 2015






With Dr Will Friedman, President, Public Agenda

Podcast available HERE (mp3 format 24MB)

Powerpoint presentation (pdf format)

 This lecture will examine the shortcomings of today’s status-quo democracy, including its tendency to marginalize the public and its inadequacy in the face of tough problems that have no straightforward or technical solution. It will explore how emerging democratic practises that engage the public more fully in problem solving can help overcome gridlock and help society come to terms with complex problems.

To achieve more robust and meaningful public engagement will require working through society’s ambivalence about public participation, and the adoption of sound strategies and civic innovations. The result of doing so is better informed and more sustainable public policy, as well as new norms and behaviors among diverse stakeholders that foster progress on tough issues.

South Australia, as a long-time leader in civic innovation, has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of contemporary deliberative and participatory practises; doing so will require that both government and the public play their parts.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Better Together program is focussed on providing ways for South Australians to get involved in the issues that matter to them. The Better Together team is delighted to be working with Dr Will Friedman, an expert in public opinion research and public engagement. This lecture looks at how to engage with communities and stakeholders in decision making and how this provides a foundation for government agencies to build a continually-improving culture of engagement practise.

Dr Will Friedman, President, Public Agenda

Dr Will FriedmanWill Friedman joined Public Agenda in 1994, became associate director of research in 1996, and was the founding director of our public engagement department in 1997. On January 1, 2011, he became president of Public Agenda, succeeding Ruth A. Wooden.

Dr. Friedman has overseen Public Agenda's steady and expanding stream of work aimed at helping communities and states build capacity to tackle tough issues in more inclusive, deliberative and collaborative ways. In 2007, he established Public Agenda's Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), which conducts action research to assess impacts and improve practise.

Dr. Friedman is the author or co-author of numerous publications including "Reframing Framing," "Transforming Public Life: A Decade of Public Engagement in Bridgeport, CT," "Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of Scope," "Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of Power" and "From Employee Engagement to Civic Engagement: Exploring Connections between Workplace and Community Democracy." He is also the co-editor, with Public Agenda chairman and co-founder Daniel Yankelovich, of the book, Toward Wiser Public Judgment, published in February 2011 by Vanderbilt University Press.

Previously, Dr. Friedman was senior vice president for policy studies at the Work in America Institute, where he directed research and special projects on workplace issues. He was also an adjunct lecturer in political science at Lehman College, a research fellow at the Samuels Center for State and Local Politics, and a practitioner in the field of counseling psychology. He holds a Ph.D. in political science with specializations in political psychology and American politics.


Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet



While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.