When the People Decide, a podcast from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, explores the promise — and sometimes peril — that ballot initiatives have brought to American democracy by telling the stories of people who have organized initiative campaigns across the country.
America’s founders were famously skeptical of direct democracy, citing fears of mob rule if people had too much power. Since then, however, the initiative and referendum process has emerged as one way that citizens in some states can vote directly on policy and join forces to bring issues they care about directly to their fellow voters.
When the People Decide is hosted and reported by Jenna Spinelle and produced by LWC Studios for the McCourtney Institute.
Peeling back the curtain on local government
This season's first episode explores what happens when neighbors and local government work together to make their communities stronger and more inclusive.
Putting money and power in the people's hands
Take a deep dive into the practice of participatory budgeting and learn how it can bring civic power to people who are not normally in the driver's seat on local decisions.
Libraries as civic spaces
Amid book bans and restrictions on programming, things seem pretty rough for libraries right now. But that doesn't mean we can't fight for something better. This week, we hear from two librarians working to enhance the role libraries of libraries democracy and civic engagement.
Winning the democracy lottery
In this episode, we visit Petaluma, California to learn about how the city opened up the decision making process about the future of the local fairgrounds.
From news deserts to civic media
Taking a civic leap of faith
The final episode of the season takes a step back from individual democracy reforms to look at what it will take to create a healthy civic culture where power is shared across the community — rather than concentrated in the hands of a few stakeholders. Eric Liu believes this can happen and is working tirelessly to spread his idea of civic faith across the U.S.
Absorbing and informative
Spinelle brings such clarity to a subject fraught with subtle complexity. This is a great weave of storytelling and civics class.
Deep dive into direct democracy
This is a well-researched, well-told narrative series that deeply explores all aspects of the ballot initiative— super interesting stuff that really gets you thinking about what Democracy is and it’s pros and cons
Smart and insightful
A fascinating look at an often overlooked facet of American democracy.