Podcast Ep. 9 – John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch


John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch are the authors of Hope for Democracy: How Citizens Can Bring Reason Back into Politics. Their book explains an experiment in democracy called the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR). It incorporated the idea of delegative democracy into the initiative referendum process in Oregon. Everyday citizens were brought together to discuss initiatives before they were put before the voters. Their aim was to write a statement to inform voters in clear language about the effects of the proposal.

Our conversation explores the idea of delegative democracy. Gastil and Knobloch believe it is able to supplement direct democracy in ways to inform voters and enhance citizen engagement. This episode brings to life how ordinary people have been able to bring ideas to life and make a small difference in how democracy is shaped. But it also introduces how a contemporary reform fits into wider theories about democracy.

John Gastil (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences and Political Science at the Pennsylvania State University, where he is a senior scholar at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Gastil’s research focuses on the theory and practice of deliberative democracy, especially how small groups of people make decisions on public issues. The National Science Foundation has supported his research on the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, the Australian Citizens’ Parliament, jury deliberation, and cultural cognition. His other recent books include Legislature by Lot and his debut novel, Gray Matters. He was born in San Diego, California, where his father ran for US Congress in 1976 and his mother followed suit in 1992-94. Raised as a Quaker, it’s fitting that he now lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

Katherine R. Knobloch is an assistant professor and the associate director of the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. At the CPD Knobloch trains undergraduates in civic engagement and facilitation and works with community partners to design and implement public forums. She studies the development, evaluation, and impact of deliberative public processes, with a focus on how the emergence of deliberative institutions alters communities and individuals. Her research has appeared in numerous academic publications, including Politics, American Politics Research, and the Journal of Applied Communication Research. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University. She was born and raised in the bayou region of Southern Louisiana and developed her interest in political structures while watching her father and grandfather navigate small-town electoral politics. She currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband and two young children.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. You can find Hope for Democracy: How Citizens Can Bring Reason Back into Politics at Amazon or your local library. The music of Apes of the State is featured in the introduction and outro . You can find their music on Spotify or Bandcamp.

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