Our Story

Every time individuals and small groups come together to solve shared problems and shape their communities, we believe it furthers the practice of democracy in Canada. But those who stand up to voice new ideas or mobilize campaigns for change are often met with immense barriers. The founders of the Open Democracy Project experienced this first hand organizing with new municipal candidates and grassroots community organizers.

We came together in 2016 with a vision of making the resources for effective civic campaigning open and accessible to everyone. We believe the internet is a critical tool for facilitating equitable distribution of the information and tools for effective democratic participation.

Through launching DemocracyKit, we found ourselves connecting to a growing cross-partisan movement of open gov, civic tech, political, media and arts organizers. We convened a gathering of this community at the first DemocracyXChange Summit in 2017 and through dialogue with partners and participants came to recognize a broader purpose – elevating Canada’s new democracy discourse and facilitating the growth of Canada’s emerging democracy sector.

Join Us

Open Democracy Project

Open Democracy Project is working to strengthen and evolve the practice of democracy in Canada through contributing to the growth of Canada’s democracy sector. We are a not-for-profit incorporated in Canada and governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Our goal is to foster collaborative and sustainable multi-stakeholder programs that convene, connect and share knowledge:


Grow participation and representation from groups that are currently under-represented in the democracy sector.


Provide a platform for the sector to build relationships and productive collaborations. A principle guiding the development of this model would be that Open Democracy Project will work to broker direct relationships between organizations and individuals in the sector and avoid acting as a middle player wherever possible.

Sharing Knowledge

Consolidating, curating and conveying sector knowledge in the form of reports on research, best practices, case studies as well as tools and templates. This would serve a mobilizing and galvanizing function for the community – ensuring that there is a reliable central destination for current and practical resources that are shaping the new democracy discourse while informing civic engagement activities for practitioners across the country.

Board of Directors

Chris Cowperthwaite

Co-Chair & President

Chris is Associate Principal at Navigator, Canada’s leading high-stakes public strategy and communications firm and leads Navigator’s in-house creative and digital agency, true. Chris brings over a decade of experience working on political, public sector and coalition-led digital activation campaigns. Prior to joining Navigator, Chris founded Groundforce Digital, an award-winning political and public affairs consultancy specializing in digital strategy, campaign management and targeted online marketing.

Chris co-founded Open Democracy Project in 2016 and serves as President and Board Co-Chair. He was named an Honorary Life Member of the Ten Oaks Project, a charity serving children and youth of the LGBTQ community. Chris holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University, a B.Sc. (Honours) from the University of Waterloo and is a Loran Scholar.

Ana Serrano


Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of the CFC Media Lab the world-renowned institute for interactive storytelling created in 1997. She launched Canada’s first digital entertainment accelerator IDEABOOST and serves as its Managing Director. To date, Serrano has directed the development of over 130 digital media projects, mentored over 50 start-ups, and has received numerous awards from the digital media, film, and theatre industries in North America including a Digital Media Trailblazing Award in 2015 from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. In 2018, Serrano received the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. Alongside this deep experience in digital media and entertainment, Serrano has currently sits as Co-Chair of the Open Democracy Project and as a Board member of The Centre for Mindfulness Studies and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Katie Gilfillan


Katie is a management consultant at PwC, specializing in the public sector, where she works clients in transforming their business for the future. Her passion for public sector work came from the years she spent as a policy advisor with the Ontario Public Service working on Indigenous and intergovernmental issues. Since joining the Open Democracy Project team in 2016, she has supported the launch of DemocracyKit, was the first co-director of the Toronto Executive, helped expand the DemocracyKit footprint in Ottawa and was part of the coordination team for DemocracyXChange 2017 and 2019. Katie is passionate about civic engagement and making politics accessible to all.

Pat Whelan


Pat is the CEO & Co-founder of Paddle, a Toronto-based startup that helps employees at Fortune 1000 companies build great careers. Before starting Paddle, Pat worked in politics and on election campaigns for all three levels of government. He studied Computer Science and Management at Western University, where in 2013, he was elected President of the Western University Students’ Council representing 30,000 undergraduate students.