Enabling citizen research

Bettina von Lieres

Bettina von Lieres.

Inside every citizen dwells a potential researcher. By promoting citizen engagement, an online research platform called Participedia aims to connect these latent researchers with those already in the field.

Bettina von Lieres describes Participedia as “a citizen-led platform that allows researchers, citizens and policy-makers to really work together to put research out into the open on these new, emerging forms of citizen engagement.”

Von Lieres is interim associate director of UTSC’s Centre for Critical Development Studies, and also Participedia’s director of teaching and learning. She teaches courses in political science and international development at UTSC, and Participedia case studies frequently appear in her curriculum.

“There is an increasing sense in the world where people feel that they should hold their governments accountable,” says von Lieres, “and citizen engagement is seen as a way of making states and governments listen to citizens.”

Growing up under apartheid in South Africa, von Lieres was always interested in issues of citizen engagement.

“When democracy was introduced in South Africa, there was a lot of focus on the state, building a democratic state, but there wasn’t enough focus on citizens,” she says.

One aim of Participedia, she explains, “is to get experts and non-experts together, because citizens and practitioners are the ones that experience these innovations.”