When and where is it on?

The event is running from the 18th to the 20th of July at the Bracken Court Hotel in Balbriggan.

How many years has it been going?

This is the first year of DemCon. Having said that, the precursor event “Participatory Budgeting and Citizen Participation”, which included Tom Arnold (Chair of the 2012 Constitutional Convention) as well as a number of other speakers, played a large part in setting the agenda for DemCon.

What was the inspiration to start it?

As a former academic and author on the topic of Digital Democracy I have been speaking at a lot of events and conferences (both academic and mainstream) over the past few years and what struck me was that while there is a lot of innovation happening concerning democracy in different fields, no one had thought about bringing these different streams together into one room. And the most promising solutions to what you might call the “democratic deficit” are interdisciplinary, combining historical knowledge with new technologies (Blockchain, Micropayments, etc.) and political experience. So I took it upon myself to put a convention together and the calibre of speakers we managed to attract confirms my original hypothesis that the timing was just right.

What exciting things can people look forward to?

DemCon is designed in a sense as a community incubator, so don’t expect a primer on whether or not there is a problem with our current version of democracy – that is a given. DemCon begins where a lot of other efforts fizzle out – with concrete solutions to drive deeper citizen participation. We have speakers from the most innovative political parties, founding members of the Occupy Movement and community groups (what you might expect from a democracy conference) but then we also have e.g. Scott Santens, one of the key people in the Universal Basic Income movement or Lionel Ploum, who is working on blockchain authentification for e-democracy to help us map out the economic and technological foundations we will need to progress to a disintermediated version of democracy. And of course I will be speaking about my extensive research into the Athenian democratic model and how it can be applied to a modern nation-state.

Unlike an academic conference, DemCon is designed to be truly interactive, with a mix of keynotes, panels, workshops and what we call Snapshots – short, 15 min presentations from technologists and practitioners on the projects they are actively running in this space.

So whether you want to just catch up on what is cutting-edge in the field of democracy or get stuck into hands-on workshops to learn the technologies driving this field, DemCon has a lot of everything for everyone.

What opportunities are on offer for those attending?

For the audience, it is an opportunity to meet the people who are building the future of democracy today, and of course to network with like-minded people. For our speakers it is a chance to learn from experts in other disciplines, which is a more rare opportunity than you might think. For our vendors (primarily technology startups) it lets them build a network of potential customers and collaborators (open source is fairly big in this area). And for the media it is an opportunity to report on solutions rather than on what’s broken with the current system.

Who will be speaking?

The current list of speakers is available here – These are the main speakers:
– David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics – known for his involvement in the Occupy Movement and for his book “Debt: The First 5000 Years”. Credited with coining the slogan ‘We are the 99%’.
– Richard Barbrook, Digital Democracy and Games Strategist, UK Labour Party – co-author of the Digital Democracy Manifesto recently launched by the Labour Party in the UK, Professor at University of Westminster.
– Dr. Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, United Nations.
– Davide Casaleggio, 5-Star Movement, (have just won the largest vote share in the Italian elections and make party decisions using a software developed by Caseleggio’s late father ‘Rousseau’)
– Scott Santens – Universal Basic Income.
– Paul Braithwaite, Community Foundation Northern Ireland, heavily involved in setting up a Citizens’ Assembly in the North of Ireland.
– Patrick Chalmers – former Reuters journalist turned film maker who has been chronicling democratic innovation around the world, in particular the Irish Citizens’ Assembly.
– John Richardson, CEO Ethelo Decisions, a digital decision-making software based in Vancouver with business and political applications.

What tips would you give to people attending to get the most out of it?

If people are interested in a particular topic, say Participatory Budgeting, then we do have Day Tickets available. But if you want to be part of the community we are building around
democratic innovation and immerse yourself in all that is happening in this field, you should come for the full convention. A reviewer once praised my own book on democracy with the phrase “mind gently blown”, so that should give you a flavour of what to expect.

How can people book tickets / when does it usually sell out?

Tickets are available at http://www.demcon.org or on Eventbrite – it is hard to say when we will fill all seats but our 2017 event (on Participatory Budgeting) was oversubscribed and we had to turn
some people away, so it’s definitely best to book sooner rather than later.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

While most speaker slots are now assigned, we do want to hear about ideas we may have missed – particularly in the technology space – and we do have a few Snapshots remaining, so we encourage submissions to [email protected]

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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