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Conference brings together participatory democracy researchers

Researchers from around the world will come to UTSC this month and begin to build a collaborative network for research into fostering citizen engagement and pro-poor social change.

The workshop, called Collaboration for Research on Democracy (CORD), will bring 15 experienced researchers from Brazil, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It will be hosted by UTSC’s international development studies program.

Many of the attending researchers have helped build a movement toward participatory development through a previous research network called the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, says Leslie Chan, the UTSC international studies lecturer who helped organize the workshop.

“One of the key concepts is this whole notion of participation in development,” Chan says. “In the past development has always been driven from the top. The idea is that for development to be effective it has to be driven from the bottom.”

Among the participants will be researchers from the Institute of Development Studies located at the University of Sussex, which is a pioneer in development studies. Others include the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP) and the BRAC Development Institute in Bangladesh.

Co-organizer Bettina von Lieres, a political science professor at University of Toronto Mississauga, says that the workshop is intended to lay the groundwork for multi-country collaborations which will bring together researchers interested in policy, research and advocacy in participatory development.

“We're hoping to launch a long-term global research organization that will sustain itself financially in the long-term. One of the issues of funding these big types of collaborations is long-term sustainable funding mechanisms,” she says.

Another main topic will be creation of a web-based portal that will make organization and collaboration easier, Chan says. The portal will include social media tools designed to make it easier for partners to work together and share research.

The workshop will be held May 21-23.

© University of Toronto Scarborough