From the United States to Brazil, news headlines about the state of democracy across the world have been bleak recently. If democracy in many of these nations fails that could lead to political and social instability, and even widespread violence.
Responsibility to strengthen democracy in the countries that practice it falls on everyone, including elected officials, corporate executives, and average citizens.
So what can be done to reverse the trend of crumbling democracies globally?
Approaching the question through the lens of Jobs to Be Done theory gives us the opportunity to assess this incredibly important phenomenon.The theory of Jobs to Be Done, or Jobs Theory, is about the progress–or job–someone is trying to accomplish within a specific context. When jobs arise in people’s lives, they “hire” specific products or services to help them.
In the architecture of every job, there are three levels to consider. First, is the job itself. Second, is the experiences provided (typically by the company or service provider) to get the job completed effectively. And third, is how the organization integrates its resources to accomplish the job.
Although Jobs Theory is often used in the context of companies and products, the framework can be applied more broadly.
In the case of democracy, the progress or job to be done, will be different depending on the nation and depending on specific individuals. We can take citizens, private sector actors, and elected politicians in countries with similar situations to Brazil and the United States as examples.
If “strengthening democracy” is the goal, then different stakeholders in an economy should consider the following:
What job will a strengthened democracy help me solve? In what ways can I experience a strengthened democracy? And what resources do I have access to for the building of a stronger democracy in my country?
Consider how each stakeholder might assess those questions.
For average citizens the job that a strengthened democracy would help them solve varies depending on individual priorities. However, all average citizens can use their vote for the progress they want to see, as they all have the right to participate in decisions that affect public welfare. The manner in which they employ this resource then translates to a variety of democracy strengthening experiences, whether those be political and social activism, town hall meetings, or the mobilizing of civic engagement.
For private sector actors a strengthened democracy may serve them more directly because the free market is often interdependent with democracy–the richest countries in the world happen to be the most democratic. A recent report by the Brookings Institution found that to mitigate the greatest threat to democracy, private sector actors need to become collectively involved. Corporations have fiduciary duties to the free market and by utilizing their capital and brand to speak up, not only are they strengthening democracy but also simultaneously protecting the pillars of prosperity. These actions lead to freer and fairer markets over time.
For elected politicians the type of progress a strong democracy would help them make varies. Regardless, all politicians have a duty to represent their constituents, and are given a platform and legislative authority to do so. How politicians integrate these resources has the potential to save their country’s stability. The US and Brazil could look to South Korea, Ecuador, or Slovenia as examples of countries that have strengthened their democracies in the recent past.
Democracy is not an immutable form of government. It requires care and cultivation by the many citizens, public servants, and private sector participants lest it fails. Although there’s no quick fix to strengthening democracy, understanding what “job” each of us hires democracy for can help motivate us into action.