Named after a quote from United States President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, By The People seeks to support and catalyze frontline local leaders in reinventing local governing institutions.
Lulu’s project, By The People, is a dynamic learning collective of public sector and community leaders who are working together to realize a radically inclusive vision for 21st century local government in the United States. By The People creates brave spaces for leaders, organizers, and advocates on the frontlines of local decision-making to grapple with how to tactically realize participatory local governance at scale. Named after a quote from United States President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, By The People seeks to support and catalyze frontline local leaders in reinventing local governing institutions.
Local government is where democracy meets people. Cities, towns, and counties often represent the most direct and immediate interaction we have with government. In the United States, local decision-making has an outsized impact in our lives:
- determining what our feeling of our neighborhoods,
- available local supportive services and programs,
- how our schools run,
- and where our tax dollars are invested.
For much of American history, local governments have operated as engines of exclusion. They have enforced systemic racism by limiting where non-white residents were allowed to live and what opportunities were accessible. Local governments’ policy and law enforcement have criminalized poverty by adopting dehumanizing policies and social services that are punitive and bureaucratic, rather than dignified and caring. They have been accountable to an elite and powerful few, rather than a collective and pluralistic whole. This has led to widespread mistrust and mismanagement of local governing institutions.
However, the immediacy and access of local government makes it a necessary cornerstone of a healthy and thriving democracy. Involving communities as true co-creators leads to more accessible, impactful, and equitable services and policies. The United States is experiencing a racial, social, and political reckoning. New models are emerging to invite input from residents and communities that have traditionally been excluded from government, but, collaborative governance is challenging to execute, sustain, and scale.
Through the Landecker Democracy Fellowship, By The People will invite a collective of government practitioners and community organizers to collaborate and explore a range of questions about the challenges and opportunities of participatory governance.
The questions By The People will address include:
- How can communities have meaningful decision-making power with sustained opportunities for input and accountability?
- How can we foster pluralism, invite divergent perspectives, and efficiently compromise?
- How do we ensure participatory processes are not extractive or re-traumatizing for marginalized communities? How do we actively address harmful histories and create space for healing?
- Should participatory processes live inside or outside the formal structures of government?
Over the course of the year, By The People will capture and share the collective’s emerging thinking through a public blog and social media, culminating in two larger in-person events.
Updated December 2021.