International Day of Democracy is on September 15, and this day provides us with an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. It celebrates the values of democracy as a way for everyone to participate in public discussions on what is important to them. And on International Day of Democracy, we can also take a moment to reflect upon our personal role in actively supporting and participating in the democratic process that impacts all of the communities in which we are a part. The beauty of democracy is that it plays a vital role in many aspects of our lives, from governments creating laws to friends deciding where to go for lunch. That’s why celebrating this day is so important – because democracy can be found everywhere!
Elements of Democracy
The values of freedom, respect for human rights and holding periodic and fair elections where everyone is invited to vote are some of the essential elements of democracy. Let’s look at a few of these more in depth.
Everyone Has a Voice
Democracy is as much a journey as it is a destination, but the most important aspect at the core of every democracy is that everyone is given a voice. When people engage in the democratic process, they have a say in the decisions that influence their lives and the communities where they reside.
Foster Human Development
Although people’s political beliefs vary along a wide spectrum, the core principles of democracy possess numerous unique features that are desirable for the health and prosperity of society and the people it represents. Countries with democratic governments tend to be more prosperous and foster human development, as measured by the health, education, personal income and other indicators seen in the people that reside in those countries.
Protecting Rights & Promoting Equality
Democracy helps people protect their interests, guarantees its citizens fundamental rights and ensures them a broader range of personal freedoms. In a democracy, there is also a high level of political equality which can have a more profound impact on protecting and advancing the rights of everyone living in that democracy, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, religious beliefs, etc.
How Democracy Plays a Role in Credit Unions
Democracy is also a key part of the credit union movement. Cooperative principle number two for credit unions is “democratic member control.” The basis of this principle is that credit unions are democratic organizations owned and controlled by their members. Each member gets one vote, no matter their financial status, to help make the organization’s policies and decisions. Credit unions are run as a democracy so the members have a say in how it operates. Members vote on a volunteer board of directors and all votes weigh the same, regardless of the amount of money in a member’s account.
Make an Effort to Celebrate International Day of Democracy!
So, what can we do to more consciously observe and support International Day of Democracy? How can we be intentional about engaging in the democratic process at our credit unions, in our communities and within our states and across the country? Staying informed of current issues and participating in creating solutions and opportunities for the future are key. This participation might be voting for elected officials or on public policies. You might also write a communication to your elected officials, attend a board meeting to address specific topics or run for an elected seat that will allow you to more deeply influence policies, practices and outcomes that impact your life and community.
Get social and build community with the people around you towards common goals or to address a shared challenge. This might be volunteering in support of a much needed community service or hosting a gathering of your neighbors to discuss a problem affecting everyone. The credit union is also an incredible community partner uniquely designed as a financial cooperative to work with and for its members. The democratically elected board directors are exceptionally positioned to understand and be able to address the financial needs and opportunities of other members of the community that the credit union serves. The members have the power to elect the board members, or run for the board themselves, to directly impact the change they want to see in their credit union and their community.
All of these are great ways to get involved and honor this special day every day. The first step is just to get out there! Let this September 15 be the day you choose to start intentionally engaging in International Day of Democracy and influencing transformational change in your community.
Erin Doan is the diversity, equity and inclusion director for Vizo Financial. She is responsible for developing and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and community involvement strategies and programs that foster an environment of inclusivity and collaboration amongst staff, business partners and natural person credit unions. Erin has held various roles with the Corpoate since 2002 and is a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE).