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Democracy in Practice

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Ribbon HUNDRED 2019
How can we open leadership education to all students?

Student Government Lotteries

Student Government Lotteries replace student elections, giving all students an equal chance to participate in student government and develop leadership and civic skills.

What is a Student Government Lottery?

Adam Cronkright, Co-Founder of Democracy in Practice
“A lottery is a fairer and better way to form a school's student government than elections.”

Adam Cronkright, Co-Founder of Democracy in Practice

Elections don’t work well in schools

Student government (also called ‘student council’) is meant to introduce young people to democracy and develop tomorrow's leaders. Unfortunately, student elections often exclude all but the most popular, charismatic, and ambitious students from actively participating, as they have little chance of winning a competition for the most votes. This is unfair, and it widens the gap between students in terms of leadership and civic skill development. Elections incorrectly teach young people that there are a few natural-born leaders, and the idea is perpetrated that for the rest democracy is largely a spectator sport, where the only role is to occasionally vote for your favorite candidate.

We wouldn't use a popularity contest to decide which few students get to learn math or history, so why are we doing this with leadership and civics?

Student Government Lotteries offer schools a fairer approach

Student Government Lotteries alleviate this problem by giving an equal chance to each and every student who wants to participate. The Lotteries completely replace elections, meaning there are no candidates, campaigns, or competitions for votes in the school. Instead, willing students enter the Lottery and a small number are randomly selected to form the student government. This approach is fairer than traditional elections, generates higher levels of interest and participation, and results in student governments that are more diverse and representative. The lack of competition prevents ‘winners’ from feeling superior to their peers and ‘losers’ from feeling rejected. The process is simple, fun, and easy to structure in a way that guarantees proportional representation by gender and grade level.

But doesn’t replacing elections in this way rob students of the chance to learn about democracy?

No, what young people need most to become engaged and effective citizens are democratic skills: active listening, critical thinking, deliberating, public speaking, etc. Student Government Lotteries give all types of students the opportunity to develop these skills, instead of excluding those who are shyer and less popular in an attempt to mimic adult politics. And we shouldn’t restrict students to thinking that elections are the only way to do democracy. In the first democracy, ancient Athens, lotteries were used for almost 200 years to fill key legislative bodies and most public offices. It’s a safe bet that young people who experience innovative and engaging student politics are more likely to be engaged in politics as adults, and may even someday invent creative ways to improve democracy.

While the focus here is on Student Government Lotteries, note that Democracy In Practice typically couples Lotteries with two other innovations: rotation and horizontal teamwork. Rotation allows more students to participate and is incorporated by holding Student Government Lotteries multiple times a year. Replacing positions like President and Vice President, with more horizontal ways for students to work and learn together, creates a richer and more equitable educational experience. On their website, Democracy In Practice has step-by-step guides and how-to videos for incorporating these other innovations, but even if your school only replaces elections with lotteries and changes nothing else about its student government program, it will make leadership and civic education far more inclusive and engaging!

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Innovation Overview
5 - 18
Age Group
2 501
Tips for implementation
A Student Government Lottery should be implemented toward the start of a school year to form the student government. There are countless ways to conduct a lottery and you can create your own, just make sure the process is participative, fun, and random! Common lottery methods involve raffle tickets; small multi-colored objects of similar size, weight, and texture concealed in a bag; or even random selection software, such as that available at
Contact information
Democracy in Practice
HundrED Review

The 4 schools that have implemented Student Government Lotteries in Bolivia are the first ones in the world to randomly select student representatives.


Democracy in Practice have worked with over 1000 students to implement and improve democratic thinking and practice in schools.


Student Government Lotteries can easily be implemented in other parts of the world because they are simple, do not require special or costly equipment, and greatly improve upon the standard student government model that is already practiced in schools around the world.


See this innovation in action

Lottery over Elections
Bogdan Badiu
Reinventing Civic Education with Lotteries
Clay pot and fava beans used at one school to conduct Lotteries
A Student Government Lottery at a night high school
High school students participating in a Lottery administered by teachers
Female students from one grade level volunteering to enter the Lottery
8th-grade students conducting a Student Government Lottery


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Introducing Student Government Lotteries to your school
Meet with school leadership, teachers, and students to present the idea of Student Government Lotteries and explain the need to replace elections. (Democracy In Practice provides short videos on their website that you can use in your presentation).
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Decide which groups should be represented in the student gover...
If possible, discuss with students and teachers which groups should be proportionally represented in the student government.
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Secure a space, date, and time for the Lottery that allows all...
Once the school is generally in agreement with changing from elections to Lotteries, work with teachers and administrators to settle on a date, time, and location for the Lottery to prevent scheduling conflicts with other parts of the school curriculum and ensure that the event runs smoothly.
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Prepare the necessary materials and the space for the Lottery
This is the time to organise everything that is needed for the Student Government Lotteries.
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Conduct the Student Government Lottery
Different Lottery methods require different steps, but most are relatively straight forward. Whatever method you choose, there are important things to keep in mind when conducting the Student Government Lottery.
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Connect with parents
In some schools, student governments meet after class, in which case it is generally necessary to get written parental consent for selected students to participate in meetings which may be out of class time.
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