ABC – leaflet

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A summary of how we think about democracy on this website. It can be handed out, after a workshop, to the participants as a small leaflet (four A-5 pages).

Posted in Applications

Assessment form

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This form is used with the application A democratic platform.


Posted in ABC of Democracy, Applications

UN declaration of human rights

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This text is used with the application From needs to rights.

Posted in Application, HR and Democracy

Democratic checklist

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This form is used with the application Developing a democratic organization.

Posted in Applications, Organisational Level

Demometer, organization

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Print-out of the questions from Demometer, organisation. To be used at meetings and workshops.

Posted in Applications, na, Organisational Level

Demometer, results

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Print out this form to compare and analyze your results together.

Posted in Applications, Organisational Level

Demometer, meetings

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Print-out of the questions from Demometer, meeting. To be used at meetings and workshops.

Posted in Applications, Organisational Level


“The greatest use i have had of this material has been in grops of for example students and teachers, organisations, companies, pedagogues or unemployed people who for some reason have to to something together.
The material has been invaluable for giving us understanding of what it means to work in a group and why it can be useful to organise ourselves. Democratic Challenges gives us a common language to use when speaking about influence and participation. This is the perfect material for you if you are curious about how decisions and organisation really works.”

– Anders Holmberg, Kreaktiviteter

“The ABC of Democracy was a very appreciated part of a training program we arranged for 400 teachers and principals in Kurdistan. The country, which at the moment is going through great changes, needs serious support in order to build up a democratic civil is an important source for anyone who wants to open up a dialogue around the individuals role in the daily work to strenghten a democratic society.”
Asos Shafeek, Komak

“Using the ABC of Democracy you can talk about democracy in a way that people appreciate but aren’t always used to, which leads to many interesting discussions and new reflections.
The material is easy to understand and fits target groups of varying study experience and language backgrounds. I have held courses based on the ABC of Democracy for associations and personnel within ABF in Northern Greater Stockholm with Swedish, Spanish or Arabic speakers. The material gives a good base for understanding democracy and has very useful exercises.”

Eva Restrepo Ahrén, ABF Norra Stor-Stockholm

“I have used the material in the ABC of Democracy as a starting point in preparing for holding workshops in democracy,
fairness and human rights for associations and civil servants.”

– Jan-Erik Boström, DemokratiAkademin

“I have use for the model every day, to understand and explain in what ways our work with women’s rights in war zones contribute to peace and democratisation.”
– Pernilla Johansson, Kvinna till Kvinna

“OPEN SPACE has been great. In our youth commitment we had lots of use of this material. Speaking of myself, I have grasped more of the democratic principles”
– Birger Tuominen, Youth coordinator

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Download all methods as pdf»Visa som PDF

The document contains all the methods and techniques presented here below.

Posted in na Tagged with:

Download material

Download all backgrounds as one pdf» (17 Mb)

Download all applications one pdf» (15 Mb)

Download Method bank» (4 Mb)


Download all backgrounds separately:

An ABC of democracy
Organisational level
A fairly democratic country
Civil society and democracy
Global, regional or intergovermental
Human rights and the UN


Download all applications separately:

Democracy’s two faces
Peter & Paul and the alternatives
A democratic platform
• Assessment form
ABC – folder
Developing a democratic organization
• Demometer, organization
• Demometer, meetings
• Demometer, results
• Check-list for democracy
Rule of law and FD countries
Towards a stronger civil society
Focus on the agenda
From needs to rights
• The UN declaration


Posted in na

Contact Us

Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Anette Pettersson Faye, Academy for Democracy

Göran Hemberg, Content

Åse Richard, Svenska, English

Sara Nezami, پارسی

Naile Aras, Türkçe

Asos Shafeek, Kurdish

Natasha Alexeeva, Русский

Posted in Contact

Focus group

A focus group enables everyone to participate effectively by valuing and commenting on a particular theme. It lays a foundation for a plan of action by providing a comprehensive picture of the present situation. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Dialogue conference

Up to a hundred people have an opportunity of exploring common interests, agreeing on interpretations and definitions, and arriving at joint suggestions for future work.

The conference consists of three rounds of group discussions, with up to 8 participants in each group. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods Tagged with:

Four corners

Four corners is about forming an opinion and making a choice. It is a good way of beginning or depening a discussion and the method can be used with large groups. Even shy persons can express their attitudes without feeling exposed. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Open space

Open Space gives the participants – in contrast to a Dialogue conference – the possibility of introducing whichever issues they wish to the agenda and discussing them in groups of their own choosing.

The conference is divided into the following stages: Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Hot seat

The Hot Seat is another, more reflective, method for encouraging participants to take a stand and express their values openly. They indicate their opinion by standing up or sitting down.

Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Techniques for domination

Every now and then a couple of persons can dominate a meeting using various methods of manipulation.

A Norwegian professor of social psychology, Berit Ås, has identified five techniques for domination that are used by men to assert themselves in relation to female colleagues, but these discriminatory practises can be directed against anyone, regardless of their gender:

Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods


Get the group to associate freely around an issue, a statement or a word. Make a note of every suggestion from every participant:

  • no idea is wrong
  • no one is to comment on other people’s ideas
  • agreement is not required
  • keep it going. All that matters is getting numerous alternatives uninhibitedly Read more ›
Posted in Method Bank, Methods

The fridge

Lack of time is the major obstacle to effective participation. This is particularly evident when a sizeable group discusses something: matters come up that have to be set aside.

A solution is to place them in a Fridge for the time being: issues raised + the name of the persons who bring them up are noted on a flip-over sheet. Later, when there is a suitable opportunity, time is devoted to emptying the fridge. For this, the method Common agenda can be used to advantage.

See also the application Peter & Paul and the alternatives

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

The line

This is a method for valuation that can be used in almost any situation where there is enough space. It works well as a starter, as a quick check of the situation or as a concluding assessment. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Possibilities chart

A form of brainstorming that gives the participants an opportunity of visualising a future project or arrangement in an new way.

  • The participants imagine that the arrangement has already occurred and ‘recall memories’ of it that they write down on post-it slips
  • The slips are placed on a chart in relation to two coordinates: desirable <-> undesirable and likely <-> unlikely
  • This ‘chart of possibilities’, to which everyone has made a contribution, is then used for planning Read more ›
Posted in Method Bank, Methods


This is a quick way of arriving at and visualising joint priorities or rankings.

Each person is given the same number of markers (small adhesive slips or ticks with a marker pen) and distributes them among the alternatives or suggestions the group has already produced. Everyone is free to distribute the markers as they please. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods


A presentation is interrupted for a couple of minutes to allow the participants to discuss an issue in pairs.

See also the application Peter & Paul and the alternatives

Posted in Method Bank, Methods


This is a method for examining the internal strengths and weaknesses of an organisation, the opportunities and threats presented by the outside world and how these factors affect problem-solving.

SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods


A narrative that describes a notional or an actual course of events.

It can be related in stages or all at once from beginning to end. The purpose is to give the participants an opportunity to discover possible choices and find solutions to a specific situation.

See also the applications Peter & Paul and the alternatives, Focus on the agenda and Rule of law and a fairly democratic country

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Cross sections

This is a simple and effective method for spreading information quickly in large groups. Together with rounds, it can maximise participation. Read more ›

Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Speaker’s ball

A soft and light ball that visually signals who is speaking and puts attention on the speaker. The holder of the ball is authorised to voice an opinion without being interrupted. Read more ›

Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods


Each person in turn has a minute or so in which to say what is on their mind without being interrupted and with no questions, comments or discussion. No one is obliged to speak. As a round should continue without being controlled, it is important to start by adopting a theme, for instance: Read more ›

Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

Common agenda

This tool creates an open and jointly decided distribution of power during a meeting. It starts with a round in which all those present are given an opportunity to state:

  • what issue they want to raise
  • whether it is a matter of information, a discussion or a decision
  • how long the item is likely to take Read more ›
Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

Rotating functions at a meeting

Facilitating a meeting is a complex matter and is preferably shared by a number of people. If the functions are circulated among the members of the organization, everyone will become acquainted with how the organization works and feel responsible for the meetings: Read more ›

Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

From needs to rights

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Give the participants an opportunity to:

  • actively acquaint themselves with the UN Declaration of Human Rights
  • reflect about the gap between abstract principles and daily life

Read more ›

Posted in Application, HR and Democracy

Focus on the agenda

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illustrate agenda problems by making an inventory of current political issues and discussing them in Focus groups


Once there were three boys fighting over a bar of chocolate. Then an old man appeared:

– Boys, boys! You shouldn’t fight. Violence simply breeds violence.
– This is none of your business!
– It certainly is, says the old man. I am a teacher here at school.
– And? says Peter.
– We don’t tolerate fights here!
– And? says Paul.
– This is a decision made by the whole staff!!
– Well, says the third boy, do you know who we are? The Three Musketeer Alliance! And we have unanimously decided to fight over the bar in a glorious battle.

Real world disputes may be less absurd and about more important issues. But if you want to avoid not only violent solutions but also authoritarian ones, then one often faces a similar difficulty: the parties belong to different communities claiming the right to decide for themselves.

This agenda problem may be solved if the parties can be made to accept one, common democratic structure. There are different varieties, for example:

  • rules of conduct are taken in a general assembly where all staff members and musketeers participate as full and equal citizens

  • the rules are decided by a democratically elected body representative of all concerned groupings

1. Theme in focus:

“Issues necesary to deal with”

2. Inventory

  • groups of up to 6 persons perform individual brainstorming: each person writes down 5 issues – on separate post-it slips – that she thinks it is important to deal with

3. Sorting and priorities

  • Each person presents the issues to the rest of the group. Related issues are placed side by side. Slips that mention the same matter are piled on top of each other
  • each person gives one third of the issues priority by marking those slips with a cross
  • the seven post-it slips that get most crosses are selected by the group

4. Assessment of the present situation

How and where are the jointly chosen issues tackled at present? Place each of the seven priority post-it slips in one of the columns in the following table.

1. Individually by the participants.
2. Internally by the participants’ own group/organisation.
3. Negotiations with external parties but no decision by a public authority.
4-6. Decisions locally/nationally/internationally: issues that in addition require a public authority’s decision at any of these levels.
7. Uncertain: use this column if it is not clear at what level the issue can be settled.

5. Joint analysis

Compare the groups’ results. Concentrate on the political issues (columns 3-7) and try to work out those that are not clear:

  • Are decisions required at more than one level? How can such a situation be solved without disputes about competence?
  • May bee there is no body that has the issue on its agenda at present. If so, what should be the strategy for achieving a solution?


If there are unclear issues for which the group has difficulty in finding an appropriate column, this is no doubt mainly because agenda problems are complex and tricky.

No single body, not even a more or less sovereign state, is completely self-governing in the sense that its members control an open agenda so that they can deal with any issue. A group is often affected by what others do, just as others are affected by the group’s own decisions. This problem – that those who are affected and the people are not identical (see An ABC of Democracy) – could in principle be resolved if:

  • everyone has access to a variety of communities that between them are entitled to decide all relevant issues
  • and the communities do not decide issues of the same type

This requires a system with a number of clearly differentiated levels for decision-making: nations, for instance, are fairly independent entities, with relatively open agendas, that mostly delegate issues to do with education, social services, medical care and so on to a lower level, for example a local authority. These smaller entities then have a more limited agenda; their decisions are restricted to certain types of issue. Similarly, nations can refer more universal issues – security, trade, etc. – to an international institution.

Such a system with a number of entities at different decision-making levels could be fairly democratic provided there is a clear, orderly structure that connects the entities in such a way that the agenda of all entities on one of the lower levels is fairly open, while the agenda on all other levels is clearly delimited.

This is often not the case. It is not clear who has delegated what to whom; thus. No one is accountable. There will then be many important issues that do not belong anywhere.

This agenda problem is accentuated in large-scale, representative systems with a wide gap between the rulers and those who elect them. When the representatives become “them there” who mostly seem to look after themselves, the way is open to populist pseudo solutions where the principle of Equal consideration only applies to one’s own group and a charismatic leader makes hay of the presumption of Personal autonomy.

Posted in Application, International Level, na

Towards a stronger civil society

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Dialogue conference

Target group

Organisations and public authorities with projects aimed at promoting a democratic development of society


  • visualising, discussing and valuing what may happen in a future project in a concrete, playful manner
  • using this new perspective to accentuate the democratic aspect of their projects Read more ›
Posted in Application, Civil Society, na

Rule of law and a fairly democratic country

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Use a case study to reflect on how rule of law relates to a fairly democratic country Read more ›

Posted in Application, na, National Level

Developing a democratic organisation

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  • The participants’ own organisation


  • identify democratic shortcomings inside the organization
  • outline a plan of action for dealing with them
Posted in Applications, na, Organisational Level

Peter & Paul and the alternatives

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View The Alternatives as pdf»                                             Visa som PDF


  • use a dilemma to bring out the difference between binding decisions and voluntary negotiations
  • elucidate the alternatives to a democratic process – guardianship or anarchy – and how they are often closer to hand than a democratic arrangement

Read more ›

Posted in ABC of Democracy, Applications


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Give the participants an opportunity to:

  • apply democracy’s preconditions and basic principles to themselves

  • reflect on what it means to form a democratic association

  • experience the tension between the principles of Equal consideration and Personal autonomy in a Hot seat session

Read more ›

Posted in ABC of Democracy, Applications, na

A democratic platform

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Get the participants to:

  • decide on a joint, democratic platform

  • compare their platform with the criteria for democracy
  • assess the degree to which their own decision-making process was democratic

Read more ›

Posted in ABC of Democracy, Applications, na

Three basic issues

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Every day and in a variety of situations, decisions are made that affect many people. When should the decision-making process be democratic and what does that mean

To answer that question, this theoretical background presents an ABC of democracy. The model is general – it applies at every level, from small groups to global organisations such as the United Nations – and consists of three stages:

A. First of all, get a clear idea of the two alternatives to democracy
B. This gives a sounder basis for arriving at democracy’s fundamental principles
C. If the democratic alternative is chosen, there is the question of how to put it into practice.


Read more ›

Posted in ABC of Democracy, Background, na

The Academy for Democracy

 The Academy for Democracy is a network of organizations focusing on civic training and educational programmes in the field of democracy and human rights.

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Posted in General

About Democratic Challenges

Democratic Challenges adresses primarily participants in the activities of the Academy for Democracy who are looking for a more comprehensive background and want to apply the methods in their organisations. The material was produced for a Swedish context but has turned out to be applicable and appreciated internationally, too; hence this multilingual Internet version.

Read more ›

Posted in General


Test your organisation with the DEMOMETER

You will be asked to take a stand on 10 propositions regarding your organization.

When all questions are answered you will get a compilation of your answers.

demometer 1 motometer 1
Organisation Meetings
Posted in Demometer

Demometer organisation

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Posted in Demometer Organisation

Demometer meetings

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Posted in Demometer Meetings

International law and the UN

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In this background we:

  • present a review of international law and the threats to it from the boundless war on terrorism
  • describe the UN’s role in an effective system for human rights
  • conclude with examining the role of democracy’s fundamental principles in the work of strengthening the present system of rights.
Posted in Background, HR and Democracy

Democratic management

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In this background we:

  • compare different types of organisation in terms of the ABC model’s alternative forms of rule and see which fundamental values have priority
  • compare the extent to which different types of organisation meet the Lifebuoy’s criteria for democracy
  • consider the possibilities for democratic management of meetings in different types of organisations

Read more ›

Posted in Background

A fairly democratic country

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Free elections, freedom of expression and other institutionalised rights are usually mentioned as indicators that certain countries are democratic. By the standards of the ABC model, however, even those countries do not match the democratic ideal. Still, these large-scale, representative systems have crossed a crucial threshold and therefore deserve to be called ‘fairly democratic’. Here we consider how this common view of democracy, based on rights, compares with the ABC model. We shall:

  • compare the ABC model’s basic criteria for democracy with the usual indicators of a fairly democratic (FD) country
  • list the political institutions which the indicators imply. They are based on the human rights that are laid down in the UN Declaration
  • arrange the FD institutions around the Lifebuoy and see how they compare with the ABC model’s criteria for democracy. By the standards of those criteria, countries cannot be more than fairly democratic
  • consider the political changes that are needed for a successful transition to FD rule and distinguish the FD institutions from a similar set of institutionalised rights that ensures rule of law in a country.
Posted in Background, National Level

Civil society and democracy

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It is a common view – shared for instance by the Swedish International Development Authority, SIDA – that a strong civil society is essential for a country’s democratic development.  A model which divides society into four sectors is used in this background to consider three reasons why the civil sector is important for democracy:

  • the civil sector is an arena for independent organisations
  • it generates confidence
  • it is an arena for democratic processes.
Posted in Background

Global, regional or intergovernmental?

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Many important political issues can no longer be succesfully tackled at the national level. The greenhouse effect, for example, is affecting people all over the world. Which international bodies are there that can deal with matters of this transnational kind? In this background we shall:

  • use the chart of alternative forms of rule to examine some intergovernmental and global organisations that have been set up for this purpose
  • consider the EU countries as an example of mixed rule – certain matters are decided at the national level; others are referred to the regional level
  • study the extent to which some global organisations in the FN family meet the criteria for democracy
Posted in Background, International Level, na

Democracy’s two faces

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  • Examine the group’s attitudes to democracy

  • Give the participants a chance of airing mixed feelings in two Four corners discussions

Read more ›

Posted in ABC of Democracy, Applications