Frontiers of Democracy 2016

The annual Frontiers of Democracy conference is taking place June 23-25, 2016 at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus.

Short Takes Schedule

Thursday, 6/23, 6:00-7:30 p.m.: Joseph Hoereth, Hélène Landemore, Frances Lappé, Tiago Peixoto
Friday, 6/24, 4:15-6:00 p.m.: Danielle Allen, Laura Grattan, Talmon Smith, Victor Yang

Short Takes Speaker Bios

We will hear brief, inspiring "short take" talks from these speakers:

  • Danielle Allen is the Director of the Center for Ethics and Professor of Government and Education at Harvard University, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Her most recent books are Education and Equality (forthcoming, 2016) Our Declaration (2014) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Age (2015), co-edited with Jennifer Light.
  • Laura Grattan, Wellesley College, is an Associate Professor in the Political Science department at Wellesley College and author of Populism's Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America. In addition to her research on democratic theory and practice, she has long been active in civic engagement and community organizing with the Kettering Foundation, the Industrial Areas Foundation, and Wellesley's Program on Public Leadership and Action.
  • Joseph Hoereth directs the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at the University of Illinois-Chicago. IPCE creates opportunities for scholars, concerned citizens, students, and government to participate in public discourse and educational programs on current policy issues and social trends. Hoereth has played a key role in On the Table, an initiative of the Chicago Community Trust that has engaged hundreds of Chicagoans in discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing their city.
  • Hélène Landemore is Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University. She is a political theorist working in democratic theory. She is the author of Democratic Reason (2013, David and Elaine Spitz Prize) and co-editor of Collective Wisdom: Principles and Mechanisms (2012, with Jon Elster). She is currently working on a new book project entitled After Representation: Reinventing Democracy for the 21st Century, where she envisions alternatives to representative government as we know it. Her most recent articles are on the participatory Icelandic constitutional process of 2010-2012, crowdsourced policy-making in Finland, and workplace democracy.
  • Frances Moore Lappé, is the author of eighteen books, including Democracy’s Edge and Getting a Grip that focus on what she calls Living Democracy. Coauthored with Joseph Collins, her latest work, World Hunger: 10 Myths, identifies democratic practices as key to solving the hunger crisis. Frances is cofounder of three organizations, including the Oakland-based Food First and most recently the Cambridge-based Small Planet Institute, which she leads with her daughter Anna Lappé. Lappé has received eighteen honorary doctorates as well as the Right Livelihood Award, often called the “Alternative Nobel.”
  • Tiago Peixoto (PhD) is a Team Lead at the World Bank’s Digital Engagement Unit. Featured in TechCrunch as one of the “20 Most Innovative People in Democracy”, Tiago's work focuses on the intersection of technology, citizen engagement and governance. As the lead of the Bank’s Digital Engagement Evaluation Team (DEET), he coordinates evaluation and research activities that apply cutting-edge methodologies to examine the effects of technology on participation, transparency, accountability and government responsiveness.
  • Talmon J. Smith, Tufts ’16, is a teaching assistant and research associate at the NYU Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and a contributor to Huffington Post Politics & Media. His research focus as a Tisch Scholar (2013-2016) and writer at Issue One centered on regulatory capture and anatomizing the conflicts of interests the current finance system produces for Congress and its industry oversight committees.
  • Victor Yang is an educator and labor organizer. He spends his days doing leadership development work with janitors and security officers of SEIU 32BJ, a local of the Service Employees International Union. He has a doctorate in politics and a master of public policy from Oxford, and a bachelor's in the history of science from Harvard.
  • A panel on civic tech with Carmen Hicks (Democracy Works), Nigel Jacob (City of Boston), Jesse Littlewood (Common Cause), and Chris Wells (University of Wisconsin)

Download the bios as a PDF document.

Learning exchanges

Most of the time will be spent on 90-minute, interactive sessions called "learning exchanges." For details, please visit this page.

Schedule at a Glance

Thursday, 6/23

5:00 PM Registration and Reception
5:45 PM Welcome and Opening Remarks
6:00-7:30 PM Four "Short Takes," followed by group discussion (Joseph Hoereth, Hélène Landemore, Frances Moore Lappé, Tiago Peixoto)

Friday, 6/24

8:00 AM Breakfast/logistics
9:00-10:30 AM Six Concurrent Learning Exchanges
10:30-10:45 AM BREAK
10:45 AM-12:15PM Six Concurrent Learning Exchanges
12:15 PM LUNCH
1:15-2:45 PM Six Concurrent Learning Exchanges
3:45-3:00 PM BREAK
3:00-4:15 PM "Text, Talk, Vote" – plenary participation/interaction
4:15-6:00 PM Short Takes (Danielle Allen, Laura Grattan, Talmon J. Smith, Victor Yang) followed by discussion

Saturday, 6/25

8:00-9:00 AM Networking Breakfast
9:00-10:30 AM Panel: Civic Tech – 1. Carmen Hicks, 2. Chris Wells 3. Jesse Littlewood 4. Nigel Jacob
10:30-10:45 AM BREAK
10:45AM-12:15 PM Six Concurrent Learning Exchanges
12:15-12:30 PM Closing Remarks

Conference framing

Tisch College at Tufts University is proud to sponsor this annual conference in partnership with The Democracy Imperative and Deliberative Democracy Consortium. Frontiers of Democracy draws scholars and practitioners who strive to understand and improve people’s engagement with government, with communities, and with each other. We aim to explore the circumstances of democracy today and a breadth of civic practices that include deliberative democracy, civil and human rights, social justice, community organizing and development, civic learning and political engagement, the role of higher education in democracy, Civic Studies, media reform and citizen media production, civic technology, civic environmentalism, and common pool resource management. This year, the theme of the conference is “the politics of discontent,” which we define broadly and view in a global perspective.

Most of Frontiers is devoted to interactive discussions and learning exchanges. View the full list of the 2015 learning exchanges and the 2015 schedule.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Public Engagement Strategy Lab

Looking for assistance in revamping or strengthening your public engagement strategies, structures and tools? Public Agenda's team will help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of public engagement in your community; explore potential benefits of more sustained forms of participation; develop practical skills for planning for stronger engagement infrastructure; and demonstrate a mix of small group and large group discussions, interactive exercises, case studies and practical exercises.

This preconference session for the Frontiers of Democracy 2016 conference is hosted by Tisch College. Space is limited and registration is required. Click here to register by June 16th

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 9:30am - 4:30pm; Tufts University Medical School, 145 Harrison Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02111

Cost: Early Bird $275 (by May 15, 2016) or Regular $350 (after May 15, 2016).  Questions? Contact or call Mattie at 212-686-6610 ext.137

Pre-Conference Workshop: Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment in an Era of Yik Yak

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 1 to 4 p.m.

Last October, 70 civil rights groups wrote to the U.S. Department of Education complaining about “discriminatory behavior” and on-line hate speech on Yik Yak and other social media sites highly relevant to colleges and universities. On social media, individual and targeted groups of students have been threatened, insulted, abused, and defamed based on their social identity and political views. The writers reminded the Department that racial and gender-based harassment violate Title IX and VI, two federal civil rights laws. They demanded that the anonymous posts be investigated and that colleges and universities be required to set up “geofences,” virtual boundaries or at least warnings about hostile speech. Civil rights activists are not the only ones who are alarmed by misogynistic or racist speech on Yik Yak. At one institution, three female professors were giving a class lecture while 230 students in the class exchanged comments that included dozens of posts that were demeaning, crude, and sexually explicit. At the suggestion of the Department of Education, many institutions have enacted new versions of conduct codes to stop group harassment. Yet FIRE, a free-expression-on-campus watchdog, continues to publish an annual list of colleges and universities that support policies that FIRE deems as infringing on the First Amendment right to free expression.

Although Yik Yak is only two years old, bullying based on social identity is hardly new. Nor is this challenge to higher education. People of color, low income, first-generation, immigrant, multi-lingual, and “nontraditional” students represent increasing percentages of postsecondary students. While colleges and universities seek to create welcoming environments conducive to learning for all students, they sometimes face a backlash by a few vocal and hateful individuals. At the same time, institutions want to protect students’ constitutional (for public institutions) and normative (for private institutions) right to unfettered speech.

In this workshop, we’ll review the laws of nondiscrimination, scope of First Amendment rights to free expression, and some effective (and not-so-effective) approaches to improving campus climate for diversity and encouraging free expression.

Ande Diaz, Allegheny College
Margaret Brower, Tufts University
Nancy Thomas, Tufts University
There is no fee for Frontiers participants. If you would like to attend this workshop but cannot attend Frontiers, please contact

2015 Frontiers of Democracy

Thanks to all the participants and attendees who made last year's gathering a successful, thought-provoking event. The following playlist includes all "short take" talks from the 2015 Frontiers of Democracy conference. Watch individual presentations on our YouTube channel. You can also check out the online conversation as it happened through #DemFront.

Sign up for updates

If you want to add your name to the "Frontiers" email list for very occasional updates, you may enter your information here. You can also click here to join the Tisch College contact list and learn more about the ways Tisch College promotes civic engagement on the Tufts campus and beyond.