You are now in the main content area

Democratic Engagement Exchange

Democratic Engagement Exchange

Building an inclusive democracy where everyone has a voice

TMU’s Faculty of Arts has established the Democratic Engagement Exchange.  Housed in the Faculty of Arts, the Exchange drives democratic engagement by building partnerships with academic institutions, community organizations and government agencies to create tools, and champion policies and programs that promote a more inclusive democracy.

Learn more about Democratic Engagement Exchange at (external link) .

Profile: Pam Sugiman

"Through this initiative, the Faculty of Arts is demonstrating its strong commitment to creating a socially just, democratic society. Without the Samara Centre's vision and continued commitment to build a stronger democracy for all Canadians, this initiative would not be possible."

Pam Sugiman, Dean of Arts

The Exchange will offer two flagship engagement programs Democracy Talks and Vote PopUp.  These programs were initially created and incubated by the Samara Centre for Democracy. Through these programs the Samara Centre built a national network of community leaders and community-based organizations that continues to strengthen Canada’s democracy. Toronto Metropolitan University and the Democratic Engagement Exchange (The Exchange) are deeply grateful to the Samara Centre for these contributions and for their continued commitment to building a stronger democracy for all Canadians.

Mission / Our mission is to build a vibrant and inclusive democracy, where everyone living in Canada can contribute to creating healthy communities and solving our most pressing challenges.

Vision / An inclusive democracy where everyone has a voice.

The Challenge / Our democracy should be a place for everyone living in Canada to have a voice and contribute to building vibrant communities and finding solutions to our most pressing challenges.  For too many Canadians our democracy does not work that way.  One third of Canadians report that they never talk about politics (Samara’s 2017 Democracy 360 (external link, opens in new window) ).  In the last federal election 8 million Canadians eligible to vote chose not to.  The Exchange addresses this challenge by:

  • Developing and promoting tools and programs for democratic engagement. Work in collaboration with the Ryerson community, community organizations and government agencies to develop effective tools and programs to foster democratic engagement.
  • Providing training and offering online resources
  • Championing policies and programs that foster democratic engagement. Provide a platform for successful community-based initiatives to showcase their work and collaborate with the Ryerson community, leading researchers, government agencies and community agencies.
  • Elevating research and supporting knowledge mobilization. Mobilize the latest research to support program development and delivery.
  • Providing consultation services. Providing programmatic and strategic advice to organizations, government agencies, and funders interested in fostering democratic engagement.

What is it? / Democracy Talks is a set of practical tools and resources to foster a more inclusive democracy.  The activities are have been embedded into existing community programs.

Who is it for? / Democracy Talks is for any local or national community group interested in a non-partisan approach to empowering its members and fostering a culture of democratic engagement.  It can be especially useful for groups that work with:

  • marginalized groups who face economic or social barriers to inclusion; or
  • newcomers wanting to learn how Canadian politics work and how to get involved.

The activities and materials have been used by over 175 community-based organizations in 25 communities across Canada, from Newfoundland to Toronto to the Northwest Territories.  They have been incorporated into language, youth and newcomer programs.

How does it work? / The activities were developed in partnership with community based organizations and then tested and refined based on feedback from frontline staff. Staff and volunteers from community organizations deliver the Democracy Talks program.

For more info visit (external link) 

What is it? / It is a toolkit to ignite interest in elections and demystify the voting process for first-time and infrequent voters. It was initially developed by the Samara Centre for Democracy in partnership with Elections Canada and launched in July 2015. In the last federal election 8 million Canadians eligible to vote chose not to. A disproportionate number of non-voters are young, racialized, marginalized, or a combination of the three.  Vote PopUp aims to change this.

How does it work? / During elections, The Exchange creates a toolkit for community organizations and civic leaders that is available for free download and offers training for staff and volunteers interested in hosting a Vote PopUp in their community.  The toolkit includes everything needed to create a simulated polling place (ballot box, voting screens, sample ballots) and a guide describing best practices. To date, the toolkit and training has been adapted for use with Elections Canada, Elections Ontario and Elections BC and have been downloaded by over 500 people in over 100 towns and cities across Canada. Over 300 community groups held a Vote PopUp, attended a training session or access the kit.

For more info visit (external link) .

Profile: John Beebe

John Beebe
Senior Advisor, Democratic Engagement
Faculty of Arts, Toronto Metropolitan University

John joins the Faculty of Arts, after leading community based outreach programs for the Samara Centre for Democracy. At the Samara Centre, John developed the Democracy Talks and Vote PopUp programs that have been adopted by national and regional community organizations across the country and showcased as an example of programs that work by the Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer in his report to Parliament.

John began his career working for the US Congress where he served as Chief of Staff to a US Congressman and worked on several political campaigns. He has also worked as an educator and served on the board of the organization that successfully campaigned for the first system of public financing for state elections in the United States.

Since immigrating to Canada in 2008, John led the development of national tutoring initiatives for Pathways to Education. He also served as founding board member and chair of Park People.

John earned his BA from Tufts University and MA from John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

John Beebe 
Senior Advisor, Democratic Engagement
Faculty of Arts, POD-469D
Toronto Metropolitan University
416-979-5000, ext. 3454