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I thought it might be good to ask a question such as this, since while I know the basic arguments, I'm curious as to how other people have found integrating a democratic atmosphere into their communities.

Where do people think democracy works and where do people think other methods are more successful?

Details: For example, let's say this is for an online website/forum community with a good number of base users which is currently using a successful, authoritative structure of experienced members to lead. However after a time, members want to try something new in order to provide more of a voice and a visible decision-making process.

What are the benefits and risks to doing so and how far could democracy be integrated, since from my experience, after a certain point it can destablise things.

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    Just a thought: for democracy to work, there must first of all be a stable enough community of minimal size, to do and decide things democratically or by community moderation. If you try to maintain democracy with not a large and active enough community present, this represents just a vacuum in power that any determined user might try to fill. Such a situation is dangerous, as users who have their own ideas about what the site should be that differ from the intention of the owner/founders, might try to take over and overturn the purpose of the site. – just_curious Jan 26 '15 at 13:37
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    That depends a lot on the kind of community (the nature of the community (e.g. physical vs online, formal vs informal, …), what topic it's about, how wide the audience is, how diverse the audience is, etc.). Without restricting to a specific type of community, this question is too broad. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 26 '15 at 17:41
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    Understood, I've added in some detail into the question etc. – Stefano Elia Jan 26 '15 at 19:39