Modernizing Congress

Here at the Beeck Center, we envision a 21st century where Americans leverage technology and data to renew democracy. To that end, the Beeck Center has been conducting research on the potential for crowdsourcing expertise from communities to inform what happens in Congress. Our initial research agenda includes developing case studies to understand what is already happening in Congress, piloting a new app to see if we can build trust between members of Congress, and testing how technology can garner effective constituent participation in the policy process.

Congress represents a national cross section of our nation’s civic voice. It is potentially the most diverse market for ideas for government and should be leveraging America’s creativity and knowledge in the policy development and policy making processes to benefit us all. During our transition into the 21st century, this civic information asset — from lived experience to structured data — should fuel the digital infrastructure of a modern representative system. Yet Congress has thus far failed to tap this resource on behalf of its legislative and deliberative functions.

Here at the Beeck Center, we envision a modern governing system where Americans leverage technology and data to renew democracy. How shall we build new feedback methods between institutions and people? A healthy democracy requires more from its citizens than voting, it requires participation in governance, active trust building and a widely held belief in the system’s legitimacy.

To that end, the Beeck Center has been exploring modernization in the legislative branch. Our recent field research resulted in a report: Modernizing Congress: Bringing Democracy into the 21st Century. This report includes three district case studies: urban, rural and suburban. It identifies trusted information intermediaries that can provide opportunities, venues and methods for civic voice in the policymaking process of Congress. Modernizing Congress also features the new Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. It proposes that a modern digital infrastructure will create a more informed, responsive and effective democracy.

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People on this project

Lorelei Kelly

Fellow, Data + Digital
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Cori Zarek

Executive Director
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