In Australia, sortition is a business opportunity:
Combining a shrewd business acumen with a philanthropic social conscience, the SA-based start-up – which formally launched last week – aims to work with governments, business, not-for profits and communities to broaden democratic engagement.
“It’s really nice to be able to set the boundaries of what’s authentic and inclusive, and what’s not … we’re really only interested in those (clients) that are actually sharing decision-making.”
Even before its official launch, the fledgling company has already made a splash; it managed the recent Citizens’ Jury process that reviewed policy prescriptions for the management of unwanted dogs and cats, and is now engaged with the Premier’s Taskforce on Healthy Kids’ Menus.
But both Lawson and Jenke are confident the long-term success of their venture isn’t predicated on political whim.
While running juries and other processes will be the company’s bread and butter, there is a distinct philanthropic bent.
“What we do that doesn’t earn money – but it’s important – is the advocacy: sharing intellectual property, trying to share with as many as possible what works and why,” Lawson says.
“We’re going to be very open in sharing what we’re doing.”
The inaugural SA citizens’ jury was run by Sydney-based not-for-profit New Democracy Foundation, a business model Lawson and Jenke considered adopting.
“We looked at being a NFP and we decided that it was too difficult logistically to do that, and easier to set up a simple company structure,” Lawson explains.
“But we consider ourselves to be a social benefit organisation.”