This profile was prepared when Michel Venne was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Michel has created the first citizens’ think thank in Quebec. Through INM (its acronym in French), Michel invites average citizens, many of them youth, to events designed to strengthen their capacity to analyze information, develop and share their own opinions, listen to competing ideas, negotiate, and ultimately translate their ideas into actions. In this way, Michel acts as a moderator and architect for civil society. By introducing sensitive political issues in the dialogue, INM attracts the attention of governments, social movements, media and labor unions. Today INM has become the point of reference for citizens’ consultation in Quebec. While there are plenty of public interest groups organizing debates with limited agendas, the INM public forums are open, non-partisan, intergenerational, and do not take any a priori position. Unlike traditional think tanks that employ only experts, INM reaches out to all citizens, experts and non-experts, young and old, recognizing the value of their thinking and their competence in the search for solutions to complex problems. As a result, INM demystifies the world and renders it accessible, and therefore, transformable. As INM grows and more people participate, Michel is beginning to see a shift towards communities that are more engaged in public affairs, and that are constantly generating new citizen organizations, resulting in a stronger democracy. His idea has sparked significant interest across the world, particularly in Europe and Africa.