The Things You Leave Behind

A friend on mine passed away on Monday, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. I’d only just learned about the diagnosis last Friday, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I knew Linda Borodkin through my work with The Welcome Project. I recently learned that she joined the board around the same time I started volunteering, but it always seemed to me that she’d been on the board forever.

She had a remarkable passion for non-profits and for non-profit leadership. But most of all, she saw each person’s capacity for leadership. She believed in the value each person brought to the work through their ideas, skills, and resources.

After my first year of chairing YUM – The Welcome Project’s annual fundraiser – Linda gave me the biggest, most beautiful bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. They lasted for weeks.

I hadn’t thought I was into that kind of thing, but – the earnestness and genuineness with which she felt compelled to say ‘thank you’ was a remarkable experience for me.

And Linda was big into thank yous. As a fellow member of The Welcome Project’s fundraising committee, Linda personally called almost every donor to thank them for their support.

She said it was wonderfully fulfilling to hear their stories – to learn why they supported The Welcome Project, and to hear them talk about what compelled them to this work.

But most of all, I think, she liked to see the students learn and grow, just as she liked to see the organization learn and grow.

And throughout it all, she was there helping, building, learning, thanking.

So here’s to you, Linda – thank you for everything.


LabGov Pioneers the Paradigm of City as Commons

What would it be like if city governments, instead of relying chiefly on bureaucratic rules and programs, actually invited citizens to take their own initiatives to improve city life?  That’s what the city of Bologna, Italy, is doing, and it amounts to a landmark reconceptualization of how government might work in cooperation with citizens.  Ordinary people acting as commoners are invited to enter into a “co-design process” with the city to manage public spaces, urban green zones, abandoned buildings and other urban issues.

The Bologna project is the brainchild of Professor Christian Iaione of LUISS University in Rome in cooperation with student and faculty collaborators at LabGov, the Laboratory for the Governance of Commons.  LabGov is an “inhouse clinic” and think tank that is concerned with collaborative governance, public collaborations for the commons, subsidiarity (governance at the lowest appropriate level), the sharing economy and collaborative consumption.  The tagline for LabGov says it all:  “Society runs, economy follows. Let’s (re)design institutions and law together.”

For years Iaione has been contemplating the idea of the “city as commons” in a number of law review articles and other essays. In 2014, the City of Bologna formally adopted legislation drafted by LabGov interns. The thirty-page Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons (official English translation here) outlines a legal framework by which the city can enter into partnerships with citizens for a variety of purposes, including social services, digital innovation, urban creativity and collaborative services. 

Taken together, these collaborations comprise a new vision of the “sharing city” or commons-oriented city. To date, some 30 projects have been approved under the Bologna Regulation.  Dozens of other Italian cities are emulating the Bologna initiative.

read more

when Dante came out

In “Dante on Trial” (New York Review of Books, Feb. 19), Robert Pogue Harrison writes, “Dante seems to reveal that he himself had homosexual leanings, and that it was only fear of damnation that prevented him from acting on them.” This surprised me because Dante seems never to be claimed as a gay writer (Google finds no such assertions), and his denunciations of “sodomy” are rather famous. But here is the relevant passage from Canto XVI (lines 46-51), in my translation:

If I had been shielded from the fire
I’d have thrown myself down there with them
And I think the master would have let me.

But since that would have burned and baked me,
My fear overcame my good desire
That made me so greedy to embrace them.*

So says Dante when he observes the men punished for sodomy, naked and oily and trying to grasp one other under a rain of fire. His master, of course, is Virgil; and it appears that the Roman poet would have allowed [sofferto] Dante to embrace these men as he wishes.

The conventional reading is that Dante wants to embrace these men because they are his fellow Florentines. Or perhaps he commiserates because they are human beings who have been damned, just as he fainted to see Paolo and Francesca (heterosexual lovers) suffer in Canto V. It has also been claimed that sodomy is some kind of metaphor for their actual sins. But I don’t think we can ignore the possibility that Dante wants to embrace them because he wants to embrace them.

The idea that being gay is an identity is generally thought to be a modern one. Dante puts men in hell for unconfessed sexual acts, just as you would be damned as a usurer if you lent money (even once) with illegal interest. In Canto XI, when Virgil is describing the layout of hell, he uses place names as metonymies for two sins: the biblical town of Sodom for male/male sexual relations, and the French town of Cahors for usury, because it was famous for its predatory bankers. A “sodomite” is like a “usurer” (or “an adulterer”): not a way of being but rather a label for an act. Yet each particular sin poses more or less of a temptation for each person, and Dante confesses here that this is a sin he is drawn to. Loosely translated from his framework to ours, his point is that he is gay but he doesn’t have gay sex, at least not in this story, because it is forbidden.

*Italian original:

S’i’ fossi stato dal foco coperto,
gittato mi sarei tra lor di sotto,
e credo che ‘l dottor l’avria sofferto;

ma perch’io mi sarei brusciato e cotto,
vinse paura la mia buona voglia
che di loro abbracciar mi facea ghiotto.

The post when Dante came out appeared first on Peter Levine.


Someone told me today that the world would be a better place if more people had more self-doubt.

That sounds about right.

I have written before about how unimpressed I am by the common solution to the so-called confidence gap – that is, when it’s raised as a problem that women typically don’t have the confidence level of men, I’m skeptical that the best solution is for “women to be more like men.”

Maybe none of us should be egotistical pricks.

I mean, really, should anyone aspire to be Gilderoy Lockhart?

And I’m a bit uncomfortable putting this all in gender terms – it is true that women, on the whole, have lower levels of confidence than men, on the whole – but I also know plenty of bombastic women and overly humble men.

That’s not to suggest we should just ignore the gender dimension of this issue. It is most certainly a problem that men are generally taught to be aggressively confident while women are generally taught their ideas are worth nothing. That is a problem, indeed.

But just for a moment, let’s pretend we want to instill the same lessons in all young people regardless of their gender, regardless of the race, class, sex or gender identity. Let’s just pretend we want all people to learn the same lessons. And then we can ask:

What’s the right amount of confidence to have?

Probably my least favorite type of person is someone who is overly confident with nothing to show for it. People who are overly confident with everything to show for it aren’t too far behind.

Invariably, it seems, it’s the people who think they know everything who actually know nothing and the people who think they know nothing who actually know everything.

Well, not actually know everything – because the people who think they know nothing know it’s impossible to know everything – but the poetry is better that way.

Irregardless, nothing is worse than a blowhard.

But while stunning over-confidence can be tyrannical, a dramatic lack of confidence can be devastating.

A little self-doubt may be a good thing, but too much self-doubt can be crushing, paralyzing. To wake up every morning convinced of your own incompetence, convinced nothing you ever do will add value – well, that’s no way to live, though many do live that way.

But self-doubt doesn’t have to be debilitating.

A physicist by training, I think often of the men who developed the nuclear bomb. Just what did they think they were doing?

They were inspired by patriotism, by science. They had a fascinating problem at the cutting edge of human knowledge and they brilliantly developed a solution. A solution that ended in death, destruction, and the continual threat of more.

“Now we are all sons of bitches,” Kenneth Bainbridge famously said to  J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Those men probably should have doubted themselves a little more.

A moral life requires constant introspection, constant questioning, constant examining of your true motives and beliefs.

And I think that confidence should probably follow a similar process –

If you aren’t doubting yourself, you are probably doing something wrong.


Lessons from the Jefferson Center’s OH Climate Dialogue

We learned from our members at the 2014 NCDD conference that D&D practitioners are looking for ways to help their communities have more conversations on climate change, so we wanted to make sure to share this piece about a process model used by NCDD member organization the Jefferson Center to do just that. Their climate dialogue in Ohio follows up on similar efforts from last year, and offers some key insights on good process for discussing climate change.

We encourage you to read their piece below or to find the original by clicking here.


Northeast Ohio Dialogue on Water & Climate

On January 29th, 2015, the Jefferson Center hosted a one-day community deliberation event in Lakeland, Ohio as part of our ongoing Northeast Ohio Climate Engagement Initiative.

The event, the Northeast Ohio Dialogue on Water & Climate, brought together community members to identify the most significant challenges a changing climate presents for the long-term quality of life in the Northeast Ohio region and to assess the importance of water and climate issues relative to other local concerns. The Dialogue convened a demographically-balanced group of twelve Northeast Ohio residents to explore the local impacts of climate change and deliberate together to identify collective priority concerns.

Community Priorities

At the beginning of the day, participants identified their top policy priorities related to local quality of life to share with community and local leaders. Shortly after, Professor Terry O’Sullivan of the University of Akron joined us to discuss climate change and its impacts on the region. Participants spent the rest of the day deliberating with one another to identify top climate-related concerns before reevaluating their overall issue concerns to see if climate issues had become more important after the day’s activities.

The final community-generated list of top priority concerns included:

  1. The effects of climate change on local water resources
  2. Economic issues, broadly
  3. The direct effects of climate change on the economy
  4. Police-community relations
  5. Education

Event Evaluation

Participants were asked to complete pre- and post-event surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the Northeast Ohio Dialogue on Water and Climate and assess shifts in behavior.

9 out of 12 participants indicated their views on climate change shifted as a result of the forum.

11 out of 12 participants indicated the Jefferson Center was “very effective” in conducting a fair and unbiased event.

In discussion, participants emphasized the importance of a strong economy as the key concern upon which action on other issues depended. The group was particularly interested in learning about both the threats and opportunities climate change directly presents to Northeast Ohio’s economy.

Driving the Conversation

The Dialogue served as a pilot to test a novel framework for assessing community-driven responses to the impacts of climate change. We hope this one-day model of citizen education and deliberation will be used by policymakers and advocacy organizations to increase public involvement in developing and implementing responses to climate change.

We will continue to work with local policymakers, public officials, and other key stakeholders to incorporate citizen priorities in their planning process. We’re thankful to Freshwater Future for supporting our climate engagement initiative, and to our local partners for their help in organizing this community-oriented awareness and engagement forum.

You can find the original version of this piece at

a method for mapping discussions as networks

Two Quebecois scholars, François P. Robert and Pierre Mongeau, have developed a valuable method for modeling the “socio-semantic network” formed when people discuss an issue.* I can envision this method used to assess deliberations, to give real-time feedback to moderators during conversations, and even to reveal patterns of discussion in fictional texts as a contribution to literary criticism.

The article is in French and it uses a lot of terminology from network analysis, so unless you already know how ideas like “directed degree centrality” are expressed in French, you may find it hard going. Since I worked my way through it, I will provide relatively extensive notes below. But here is the shorter version:

Individuals form a social network if they know one another. Each link is a relationship, such as an experience of having talked one-on-on together. Meanwhile, individuals form a “socio-semantic network” if they use the same or highly similar phrases in a conversation on a common theme. “Each word or phrase that two people use in common is a link.” They need not know each other to have a socio-semantic link.

The social relations among people and their socio-semantic networks are different but not necessarily independent. One could affect the other. For instance, we might find that people who are central in a social network disproportionately affect the ideas that are expressed throughout that network. Their prestige may give them influence. Or we might find that people who express ideas that are frequent in the network become more socially central: holding popular ideas may give them prestige.

Robert and Mongeau involved 95 Montreal residents in discussions of a public policy topic: college tuition. Some of these discussions occurred in a large group using formal procedures. (I imagine Robert’s Rules or some variation thereof.) Other discussions occurred in small groups that were less rule-guided.

Some participants knew each other before the experiment. The authors identified all the social links that existed before the deliberation and also found out who had talked to whom during the event. They could thus chart the changing social network of the participants. Meanwhile, the authors asked participants to write about the issue both before and after the deliberation, collected the writing produced during the discussions, and looked for similarities of phrases between pairs of participants. That allowed them to chart the changing socio-semantic network of the group.

They found: “The conventional method [a large group deliberation using formal rules] favors the emergence of a link between social centrality and socio-semantic centrality, while the alternative method [small group discussions] favors the emergence of a negative relationship between these measures.” Apparently, in large group discussions, people who are socially central—knowing many others or interacting with them one-on-one during the meeting—increasingly dominate the views expressed by all the participants. But “in the alternative deliberative format that uses discussions in small groups, the emergence of differences is promoted by providing a space for expressing views different from those of the socially central people.”

The authors draw a lesson for organizers of events. “In practical terms, these results suggest that it would be advantageous for a democratic organization to first use alternative methods so as to promote the expression of a diversity of views and then to continue the deliberation in a conventional manner (like that prescribed in codes of procedure) to develop consensus positions.”

Maybe–although the design of deliberative formats involves more criteria that these. I am more interested in the methodology, because I believe it could be developed and applied for other purposes. To me, the fact that opposite results emerged from different kinds of deliberation validates the method, especially since the authors have a plausible explanation for the patterns they found.

* François P. Robert and Pierre Mongeau, Caractéristiques sociosémantiques des méthodes conventionnelles et alternatives de deliberation, Revue internationale comminucation sociale et publique, no 12, Dec. 2014, pp. 101-120

A bit more detail on the instruments: Before the deliberation, individuals were asked, “Of the following people, with whom did you have [knowledge or contact] before January 28, 2012? ” They were also asked after the deliberation, “With whom [names listed] have you had an exchange, a confrontation, or a sharing of ideas (whether positive or negative, whether or linked or not to the experiment)?” “An extra open-ended question asked respondents to provide information to identify people whose names they did not remember; for example, ‘During the break, I spoke with the gentleman sitting in front of me’ or ‘I talked a lot with the young lady to my right at the first round of discussions.’”

And the findings: “There is a negative correlation (r = – 244; p <0.05) between socio-semantic centrality during the conventional activity [large group deliberation] and that observed in the alternative activity [small group]. This correlation indicates that the central people in the socio-semantic network when the method of deliberation is conventional do not tend to be central in the alternative method. Furthermore, socio-semantic centrality while using the alternative method is positively correlated with that observed after the experiment (r = 378, p <0.01). Thus, people using more words and similar expressions to all participants during the alternative method also tend to do so after the experiment.”

No correlation was found between socio-semantic centrality and “various social centrality measures …. No link can be established before the experiment between centrality in the social network of a person and centrality in the socio-semantic network.”

“In the conventional method [a large-group deliberation], only directed degree centrality in the pre-existing social network is significantly and weakly correlated with socio-semantic centrality (r = 223, p <0.05) (Table 5). Thus, the number of choices received (prestige) of a person in the pre-existing social network is linked, albeit weakly, with the person’s use of words and phrases used by all those present in the conventional method. When the correlations are based on social centralities observed in the circumstantial network centralities all social measures were significantly correlated with sociossemantic centrality in the conventional method. The link is moderate (see Table 6), because the correlations vary around a mean of 0.41 (p <0.01). These results confirm the presumed relationship between social centrality and socioesemantic centrality by our general assumptions (Hg1, Hg2) and the first specific hypothesis (HSA).

“In the alternative method, the correlations between sociosémantique centrality and three of the five social centraly measures are reversed … The correlations between sociosémantique centrality and betweenness centrality measures and proximity are no longer significant for measures of centrality in the circumstantial social network. Furthermore, the centrality of the close pre-existing social network is also weakly negatively related to socio-semantic centrality for the alternative method (r = – 213; p <0.05). …. The alternative method does not attenuate the relationship between sociosemantic centrality and social centrality; it appears to transform them insofar as the correlations are weaker in the alternative method, but reversed. …”

“Indeed, this correlation suggests that people with greater prestige in the network before the [large group] deliberation begins (that is to say, they arrive at the meeting with more  relational capital) have a slight tendency to use words and expressions similar to those used by all participants.

“Conversely, with the alternative method, the central people tend, but moderately, to use words and expressions different from those used by all participants. In other words, the greater the number of relationships a person has with other participants, the more the person’s vocabulary tends to be different, to a moderate degree. This can be explained either by a change of vocabulary on the part of people whose social centrality was already high even before the deliberation began, or else that new themes have become central. Since it seems unlikely that people have changed their vocabulary in such a short period, this suggests that other people have become central in the socio-semantic network during a deliberation using the alternative method. Indeed, the alternative method gives people more time and opportunity to hear a different perspective by using periods of small group discussion. In this situation, a person who brings a new perspective that is taken up and discussed in the group thus increasing his or her centrality in the socio-semantic network. Moreover, the proliferation of small groups not necessarily discussing the same topics explains the relatively weak correlation (r = – 24 on average; p <0.05).”


The post a method for mapping discussions as networks appeared first on Peter Levine.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Today, I heard history professor Jill Lepore talk about her recent book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

The story is one of sex and sexual identity, of feminism and struggles against convention.

According to Lepore, Wonder Woman began in 1941 as a tool for silencing critics of comic books. With the genre having only recently arrived on the scene, parents were concerned about the effects of comic books on their impressionable young children.

Superman came from a master race – problematic for 1941. Batman originally carried a gun – which was also unfavorable to the sensibilities of the day. In fact, in an effort to console concerned parents, Bruce Wayne was later given a back story – one in which his parents were shot – and Batman ceased to carry a gun.

Wonder Woman was supposed to quell such critics – although she ultimately drew more criticism of her own – by fighting for truth, love, and equal rights.

Before giving the new character her own comic book line, a short survey was given to comic readers – Should Wonder Woman be allowed, even though a woman, to become a member of the Justice Society?

Surveys came back favorably, and Wonder Woman was given her own line.

Creator William Moulton Marston, a psychologist with a Harvard education, described his creation in the early 40s: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

If that seems somewhat radical for a white man in the 40s, it probably was. Marston grew up seeing the front lines of the suffragette movement – his Freshman year at Harvard he heard radical feminist and political activist Emmeline Pankhurst speak. She didn’t speak at Harvard proper, though a male student group invited her, but rather spoke off campus as the administration would not allow women in Harvard Yard.

Marston was fascinated by radical feminists and passionate about equal rights. “The only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity,” read the press release announcing Wonder Woman.

In Lepore’s description, the history of Wonder Woman quickly becomes a history of Marston – and of Marston’s family.

As the New York Times describes, “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” is fundamentally a biography of Wonder Woman’s larger-than-life and vaguely creepy male creator, William Moulton Marston (1893-1947). He was a Harvard graduate, a feminist and a psychologist who invented the lie detector test. He was also a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast.

But that doesn’t really tell the story.

Marston married his college sweetheart, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and then later – while working as a professor at Tufts University – fell in love with a student, Olive Byrne.

Eventually, Olive moved in with Marston and his wife, and Olive and Elizabeth each bear two children.

After Marston’s death in 1947, Olive and Elizabeth continued to live together until Olive’s death in the 1980s.

Lepore, a dedicated historian, lamented that there isn’t more documentation clearly describing the nature of their relationship. There are no letters between the two women, no notes indicating intimacy.

At least none which survived.

The polyamorous relationship was quite scandalous, you see, and a lot of effort was put into obfuscation. Marston was eventually blocked from his academic career due to the unsavory nature of his personal life. Meanwhile Olive – the daughter of Ethel Byrne and niece of Margaret Sanger – was concerned that the truth of her personal life would destroy advocacy for birth control.

And at the center of it all is Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was conceived as part Olive, part Elizabeth, part Margaret Sanger. She was a compilation of all these powerful and strong woman Marston had in his life. But she was part Martson – a man who I imagine wished he could have seen more Wonder Woman in himself.

Leport said that the story of Marston is about the cost of living an unconventional life.

If that’s the case, it is this intimate vulnerability which reveals Wonder Woman’s true power. Wonder Woman’s story isn’t about leading an unconventional life – it’s about leading the life you want to live and fighting to have that life accepted.


We’d all be better off if some of us decided to stay home.

Map of WalkoutsToday is National Adjunct Walkout Day, but instead of participating I’ll walk-in to the Jessup Correctional Institution and I won’t walk-out until my class and other responsibilities are done. Mostly that’s because I think the adjunct problem is less important than the mass incarceration problem, and my students would be worse off if I decided to stay home. I’d be a cad to complain to them about my plight, in any case: they make less than a dollar a day, if they’re lucky enough to get jobs at all. But my situation is probably a bit unique: most students won’t complain if their teachers cancel class. They consider themselves better off when we stay home.

On the commute to Jessup, I’ll get caught in traffic. It seems like I always do! And there’s something I like to remind myself as I’m driving: I’m part of the problem. It always seems like the car in front of me is the problem, the one who just cut me off. But to the car behind me, I’m the one in the way. Traffic works that way: we think we’re the victims of traffic, but really we’re the perpetrators. We’d all be better off if some of us decided to stay home.

Low wages work sort of the same way. It seems like they’re the employer’s fault, or the competition’s. But the employers are just trying to save money (and yes, that means they don’t care as much about the quality of the education they provide as they do about costs, though adjuncts provide high quality educations anyway). And our fellow adjuncts are bidding down wages because they are willing to work for so little, but they can rightly point to me as the problem, working–for free!– at a prison alongside three other jobs when I ought to be bidding wages up. Collectively, we have made ourselves cheap. We’d all be better off if some of us decided to stay home.

Anyone with a PhD can make more money in another field: we’re smart folks, with skills that other people will pay to learn, which they will then use less well than we could–for more money. So a walkout makes sense. What makes less sense is coming back. We’d all be better off if some of us decided to stay home.

Now of course I’m ignoring the obvious: universities are corporatized businesses run in such a way as to exploit their labor force, to separate us from the value of our labor. Without shareholders, the primary beneficiaries of that exploitation are other workers in the same firm: administrators, senior faculty, and the like. But still: that exploitation depends on a reserve army of underemployed PhDs willing to take the job, which of course pays poorly but comes with great heaps of respect and esteem. So it’s still true: we’d all be better off if some of us decided to stay home.

So all we need to do is decide who will stay home. For that we’ll need collective bargaining–unions–and we’ll need to understand that the unions are only going to be effective if, after the walkouts, some of us decide (or are forced) to stay home. But maybe in that case we won’t all be better off: maybe the people who have to stay home or leave the academy will be worse off. Or maybe many of us would be better off if only someone would convince us that working at GEICO would be a better job.

Three reports worth looking at if you want to have an evidence-based discussion of these issues:

$3M Knight Competition Seeks Ideas for Increasing Civic Participation

Today, the Knight Foundation begins accepting submissions in a competition for part of a $3 million pot that we know many of our NCDD members could do well in. The Knight News Challenge calls for creative ideas about how to increase civic participation around elections, and we encourage all of our NCDDers to consider applying before the March 19 deadline. You can learn more in the KF blog piece below or by visiting

Knight-Foundation-logoOn Feb. 25 we will open the next Knight News Challenge with this question:

How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections?

The challenge is a collaboration between Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation, and Rita Allen Foundation, all of which plan to contribute funds, expertise and outreach as well as helping to review entries. What’s at stake, for the winners, is a share of more than $3 million.

As with past challenges, this one will cast a wide net. We are looking for innovative ideas on new ways that news organizations, civic tech entrepreneurs and others can better inform voters and increase civic participation. Projects could range from bringing more transparency to money and politics, to making voting easy, efficient and fair, to converting election participation into longer-term civic engagement – on the local, state or national level.

With newsrooms and civic organizations gearing up for the 2016 elections, this is a prime moment to explore new ways to engage Americans in the political process and increase participation in our democracy.

Here’s what you should know before the contest opens for ideas:

  • We are interested in ideas from anyone, including journalists, civic technologists, academics, students, startups, nonprofits, governments and individuals.
  • The challenge will open for submissions on Feb. 25 and close at 5 p.m. ET on March 19.
  • Winners will be announced in June.
  • The challenge will not fund projects involving voter registration, lobbying or advocating for specific parties, initiatives or candidates.*

News Challenges usually have at least $2.5 million at stake, with winners receiving funding of anywhere from $35,000 to several hundred thousand dollars. This time, Knight has three partners, and the Democracy Fund has already announced it will contribute up to $250,000. Hewlett Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation are still finalizing details of their participation, but all partners will stimulate ideas, do outreach and help review entries. Other reviewers will include a diverse set of experts in journalism, governance and civic tech.

The challenge follows a mid-term election that had both the lowest turnout since World War II, as well as the most spending on a mid-term ever by political parties and outside groups. Many voters are apathetic, or feel that their vote doesn’t make a difference. We see that as a challenge. We see civic participation as the way communities take hold of their futures. New forms of civic participation are emerging, some enabled by technology, but elections remain central.

What if voters felt better informed and more confident going into elections? What if they could easily find and track trustworthy  information on the issues they cared about? What if the election process were more pleasant and felt empowering? What if voters made connections – to information, or people – in the course of elections that made them want to become more engaged in their communities after they cast their ballots?

The goal of a News Challenge is to find organizations and people out there who may have answers.

* The Knight News Challenge will only support nonpartisan ideas. There are categories of ideas the challenge will not fund, under laws governing elections and nonprofit organizations. It will not support ideas that are aimed to influence the outcome of any specific election or legislation. Nor will it fund, directly or indirectly, a voter registration drive. We will be offering virtual office hours during the application period and otherwise responding to questions to make sure applicants are clear on the parameters.

The original version of this Knight Foundation blog post at

making the voting age 17

I have an op-ed in Politico today that begins:

It is time to try lowering the voting age to 17 nationwide. Takoma Park, Maryland, has done it. Iowa, too, for caucuses. Scotland went down to age 16 for its recent independence referendum. Evidence suggests it will boost informed participation in our democracy over time.

Supportive research is collected on the CIRCLE website. At 11:35 today, I’ll be live on WBAL (in Baltimore or on the web) talking about the idea with Clarence M. Mitchell, IV.

The post making the voting age 17 appeared first on Peter Levine.