21 episodes

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.

When the People Decide Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy

    • Government
    • 5.0 • 13 Ratings

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

    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.

    • 24 min
    Putting money and power in the people's hands

    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.

    • 22 min
    Libraries as civic spaces

    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.

    • 22 min
    Winning the democracy lottery

    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.

    • 19 min
    From news deserts to civic media

    From news deserts to civic media

    • 25 min
    Taking a civic leap of faith

    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.

    • 21 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
13 Ratings

13 Ratings

mspassell ,

566787 stars!!!!

Finally an optimistic look at how our goverment can work.

katieo2022 ,

Absorbing and informative

Spinelle brings such clarity to a subject fraught with subtle complexity. This is a great weave of storytelling and civics class.

Luna843 ,

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

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