Before last week, I didn’t know any Nobel laureates. Now, I feel like I know 11 million Nobel laureates.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded last week to, in effect, the entire country of Tunisia, population 11 million. Yes, it technically went to a “Quartet” of civil society groups – business, labor, human rights, and lawyers – who kept Tunisia’s remarkable democratic transition alive in recent years. But the whole country felt like a winner, and justly so.

I served as co-president of the first ever conference on direct democracy in Tunisia back in May, and it was the finest event I’ve ever attended—because of the hundreds of Tunisians who showed up. Tunisia was where the Arab Spring began, and it’s the only Arab Spring country that has held onto its democracy – even in the face of two horrific terrorist attacks this year.

The Tunisians had much to say and so many questions to ask. After installing a new democratic national constitution, they are building out a new system of local democracy that includes direct democracy. Our conference was about that direct democracy, and they were full of questions about how direct democracy is practiced in places like California.

They’ll likely have the basic structure of their new local democratic system in place before we vote on our own ballot initiatives in November 2016. The Tunisians are already doing more experimenting with participatory budgeting and similar tools than we’ve managed in California. It’s remarkable to see how bold an engaged citizenry can be—the rewards go far beyond peace prizes. I wish we had the same sense of engagement and possibility here in California.