Recap from Frontiers of Democracy 2017

Outgoing NCDD Youth Engagement Coordinator Roshan Bliss attended this year’s Frontiers of Democracy Conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University in the Boston area. The conference was held from June 22-24 and focused on the theme, Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.

Around 150 of D&D scholars, practitioners, and leaders participated in workshops, discussions, and plenaries focused on the question of what the rising leaders who appear opposed to democracy around the world means for the field of dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement, and most importantly, how we should respond. The full schedule for Frontiers 2017 is still available to check out here with detailed information on plenaries, speakers, and break out sessions.

NCDDers were prominently featured in the gathering’s schedule, including NCDD Board member Wendy Willis of Deliberative Democracy Consortium, who gave opening remarks on the effect of loneliness on civic life. Roshan presented a workshop on Saturday afternoon with several individuals, including Shari Davis of the Participatory Budgeting Project – a NCDD member org, on the promise and potential of seeing student governments as key venues in which to grow and spread deliberative democracy. Organizational NCDD member Ashley Trim of the Davenport Institute challenged our field to be more genuinely open to conservatives and you can read her poignant talk on Healthy Democracy’s site here. The gathering ended with a challenge from Dr. Archon Fung for our field to rethink the role of power in the work of dialogue & deliberative democracy and to deeply consider that we may not change much without engaging in real ways with efforts to build and wield it.

We wanted to lift up the post-conference reflection piece from Peter Levine, where he explores the direct and indirect paths to deliberative democracy and the future of dialogue and deliberation work. He wrote:

“My main point is that we must consider the choice between direct and indirect paths to deliberative democracy, taking due account of the institutions, incentives, power structures, and social divisions that actually exist in our society.

For what it’s worth, my own view would be that it’s important to build and sustain a movement devoted to explicit work on dialogue and deliberation. Deliberative experiments yield knowledge of group processes, generate models that can be inspiring, and produce a cadre of professionals whose well-deserved reputations for skillful neutrality make them useful at opportune moments.”

For more information on the Frontiers conference, check out the info from Tisch below or on their website here. You can also look through the #demfront hashtag on twitter or this great Storify page that Joshua Miller created of the #demfront hashtag which you can see here.

Frontiers 2017 via Tisch

Thanks to everyone who joined us at an exciting, thought-provoking, and timely Frontiers of Democracy 2017. You can watch video of this year’s introduction, “short take” speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, below. (Click on each video’s description for timestamps that allow you to skip to a specific speaker’s presentation.)

Frontiers 2017 was focused on multiple frameworks for civic and democratic work developed respectively by Caesar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine. Our short take speakers included Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, the senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri; Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center; and Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

In addition, the Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and The Democracy Imperative held a pre-conference symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.”

More about Frontiers of Democracy
Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. The event is organized in collaboration with several partners, which in 2017 included Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.

Now more than ever, the frontiers of democracy are threatened around the world. Leaders and movements that have popular support—yet are charged with being undemocratic, xenophobic, and illiberal—are influential or dominant in many countries. Meanwhile, many peoples continue to face deep and sustained repression. Social movements and networks are confronting this global turn to authoritarianism. This conference brings together scholars and practitioners from  do to defend and expand the frontiers of democracy.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately follows the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students.

Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need?, was published June 2017 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation.. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the inequities within the current food system and how to create a world where all people have the food they need to thrive. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find a post-forum questionnaire.

From NIFI…

All of us affect, and are affected by, the food system: students who grow and eat carrots and tomatoes from their school garden; farm owners who maintain patches of natural habitat for bees; immigrants who hand-pick our apples, grapes, and oranges; public employees who design food-nutrition labels and monitor food safety; restaurant workers who take our orders and serve our meals; food reporters who write about ethnic cuisine; local groups of gleaners who keep edible food out of the dumpster and put it to good use; food pantries that teach teenagers to garden on vacant lots; parents who work to stretch their food budgets to the next payday; policymakers who determine agricultural subsidies; community members who advocate for policies to ensure that all of us have the food we need.

While we have one of the most productive and efficient food systems in the world, millions of people in the US still fall between the cracks. People who may have enough to eat today worry about the availability and quality of food for future generations.

This guide explores different approaches and actions that are, or could be, taken to create a food system that works for all of us. While the approaches overlap in some respects, they do suggest different priorities and involve different trade-offs. With this in mind, what should we do to ensure that people from all walks of life have the food they need?

This issue guide placemat presents three options for deliberation:

Option 1: Improve Access to Nutritious Food
Despite our nation’s abundance of food, some people still don’t have enough to eat, which undermines their health, productivity, and overall well-being. According to this option, we need a food system that ensures everyone has a stable source of affordable, nutritious food. We must strengthen our school nutrition programs and food assistance for low-income families, as well as improve access to fresh food in rural and low-income communities.

Option 2: Pay More Attention to the Multiple Benefits of Food
We have drifted away from traditions and principles that once helped us enjoy a healthier relationship to food, according to this option. We all need to be better informed about the foods we choose, their nutritional value, and how they’re produced and processed. Rather than allowing food advertisements to determine our choices, we need to pay closer attention to what we value about our food, traditions, and well-being.

Option 3: Be Good Stewards of the Food System
We are not managing our food system as well as we should, according to this option. We must do more to safeguard the quality and availability of food for generations to come. Good stewardship is needed at every link in the food-supply chain, from the seeds we plant to the reduction of food waste. It also includes preserving our natural resources, choosing sustainable methods of production, and strengthening the food-system workforce.

Preview the starter video above. Like what you see? Press the ‘BUY’ button in the upper right hand corner of the video. Your purchase includes UNLIMITED streaming and downloads of this starter video.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

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The “Repúblicas” of Coimbra

Definition, problems and Purpose The “ Repúblicas” (republics) of Coimbra are students’ community houses, whose history dates back to the origins of Portuguese university, in the XIV century. They are spaces of living and conviviality with a specific culture, generated by a centuries-long tradition. The republics are the most ancient...

job opening: the Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies

The Department of Political Science and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University invite applications for the Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies in Arts & Sciences. Civic Studies encompass civic engagement, political participation, social capital, civil society, citizenship, civic virtue, the public sphere, and related topics. The Newhouse Professorship is a joint appointment between the School of Arts & Sciences and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. The Newhouse Professorship will promote the intellectual inquiry into civic life necessary to fulfill the University’s mission to shape students into active and engaged citizens. Teaching responsibilities will focus on the undergraduate level.

From the perspective of Tisch College: this is one of a small set of senior faculty positions that we are filling across the University. The new professors will form the nucleus of an intellectual community here that is dedicated to understanding civic life in all of its aspects. They will also connect to numerous existing Tufts scholars and students who study relevant topics. Our goal is to develop new approaches to defining, investigating, and improving civic engagement in the US and around the world.

The position requires a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related field, and a record of excellence in scholarship and teaching. Current rank of Full Professor or advanced Associate Professor is required. The position is open with respect to subfield and methodological approaches.

All application materials must be submitted via Interfolio at: Applicants should submit a cover letter describing their research and teaching, a curriculum vitae, two representative scholarly works, and contact information for three references. References will only be contacted with prior candidate approval. Review of applications will begin on September 15, 2017, and will continue until the position is filled. Please contact Peter Morency, Administrative Assistant, at with any questions.

Kettering Explores How to Bridge Like-Minded Communities

We wanted to lift up this piece from NCDD member org, the Kettering Foundation, to tap the NCDD network thoughts on how people are sorting themselves and what are some best practices for bridging diverse groups. Amy Lee of Kettering sat down with Bill Bishop, coauthor of The Big Sort, in which he talks about the ways people are now sorting themselves into groups by like-minded lifestyles. In the interview, Lee expresses how much more problematic this can make it for people to view shared problems and come together in collaborative action to address issues. We want to know what are your thoughts on this? What are some best practices for bridging these like-minded communities?

Let us know in the comments section below. You can read the article and watch the interview below, as well as, find the original on Kettering’s site here.

Bill Bishop, coauthor of The Big Sort, was at the Kettering Foundation earlier this month to deliver the first Hodgkinson Lecture, named in honor of Harold L. (Bud) Hodgkinson, a renowned lecturer, writer, and analyst of demographics and education.

In a lively and spirited exchange, Bill helped us unpack some of the major themes in The Big Sort, specifically how people have “sorted” themselves out along lines of race, class, and ideology. Kettering, of course, sees this sorting as problematic because it makes it hard for already tough problems to come to be seen as shared problems. The “big sort” makes it much more difficult for people to deliberate across differences and make decisions together.

Kettering program officer Amy Lee caught up with Bill after the research session for some closing thoughts. You can watch those below and learn more about Bill Bishop’s work.

You can find the original version of this blog piece on Kettering site at