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Letter From Open Democracy Fellow, Sabreena Delhon

May 12, 2020

Under many pressures, we arrive at a critical moment in which to define the next chapter for democracy in Canada.

As we navigate this crisis, a transformation is unfolding as a new wave of civic leaders challenges traditional power structures. Emphasizing openness and transparency, this nascent community is embracing innovative ways of organizing.

I have been a contributor to the democracy community since 2016. I volunteered at the first DemocracyXChange (DXC) summit in 2017 and attended DXC19 while on maternity leave. Most recently, I’ve been a Senior Program Advisor at Open Democracy Project working on DXC20, DemocracyKit and the creation of OpenDemocracy.ca. I am drawn to this work and community because it is practical, creative and highly effective. It’s where I feel inspired and at home.

Over the past 15 years, I have worked at the intersection of research, technology and community to diversify historically homogeneous spaces. This has involved making complex information accessible to a range of audiences, conducting first-in-field primary research, facilitating cross-disciplinary collaborations and challenging default assumptions of what constitutes a leader. We know that many hands make light work, but from my efforts across academic, non-profit and justice sectors, I know that too often working across perceived boundaries remains elusive.

Through wide-ranging initiatives and projects over the years, I have observed one consistent theme: the key to addressing the multitude of issues affecting the quality of life for people across the country — from access to justice to climate change — lies in enhancing democratic engagement. This means going beyond identifying a problem or encouraging someone to vote — it’s about going upstream to ensure that representative participants are not only present but actively driving conversations that shape their communities.

The Open Democracy Fellowship is a co-creation of Open Democracy Project (ODP) and Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (the Centre) in partnership with Massey College. This role has an ideal base from which to support and respond to the needs of democracy practitioners in Canada. ODP is a renowned innovator, having developed community-based programs that demystify political processes and use technology to enhance inclusiveness. The Centre delivers a wealth of leading original research, such as The Poll, which will inform engagement with a range of communities — including Indigenous groups, those in rural and remote locations and language minorities. And Massey College provides an intellectual hub that elevates and expands Canada’s democracy discourse.

I am thrilled to be the inaugural Open Democracy Fellow, and am ready to serve the democracy sector as we seize this pivotal moment in history. Together we will spend the next three years supporting the growth of a national ecosystem that will foster a more resilient democratic culture across all communities in Canada. We are at a turning point that tests our mettle. The world will be very different in 2023 — let’s ensure we make it more democratic.

Sabreena Delhon

Open Democracy Fellow

Sabreena Delhon is a leading public sector strategist with over  a decade of experience in developing and executing initiatives that deliver complex information to diverse audiences. Delhon has directed provincial research studies that examine public perceptions of the justice system. Results have informed the work of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General and are now required reading in access to justice courses at law schools across Canada. In 2016, she conceived, coordinated and launched the first annual Access to Justice Week, which has since been adopted by other regions across the country. Delhon holds an M.A. in Sociology from Dalhousie University and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Alberta.