Register now for Frontiers of Democracy: June 22-24, 2017 in Boston


06/24/2016 - Boston, Mass. - Frontiers of Democracy conference held at Tufts University. (Paul Rutherford for Tufts University)

About Frontiers 2017

Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University with partners, including (in 2017) the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, and the Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center.

In 2017, 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 the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, South Africa, France, Britain, and the United States, among other countries. Meanwhile, many peoples continue to face deep and sustained repression. Social movements and networks are confronting this global turn to authoritarianism. Please join us for a discussion of what we must do to defend and expand the frontiers of democracy.

Please register soon to hold your spot. Space is limited.

We have confirmed some of the exciting “short-takes” speakers for this summer, including Jill Abramson, author and former executive editor of The New York Times, Rehka Datta from Monmouth University, Joe Goldman, president of the Democracy Fund, Rev. Willis Johnson of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, MO, Hardy Merriman from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Ashley Trim, executive director of the Davenport Institute, and Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center.

The whole conference will be asked to work collaboratively with three frameworks for civic and democratic work developed respectively by Ceasar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine.

A nationally prominent group of scholars will hold a roundtable discussion of civic renewal, “fishbowl”-style so that everyone will have opportunities to ask questions and make comments. Those scholars will include, among others, Jeff Coates (National Conference on Citizenship), Felton (Tony) Earls (Harvard), Lewis A. Friedland (Wisconsin), Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg (Tufts), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Carmen Sirianni (Brandeis), and Janet Tran (The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute).

You can also enter your information here to let us know that you are interested in attending and to ensure that you receive additional information about the agenda and registering for Frontiers, but that does not register you.)

Submit session proposals

As always, the format of Frontiers is highly interactive; most of the concurrent sessions are “learning exchanges” rather than presentations or panels. We welcome proposals for learning exchanges for 2017. No later than April 14, 2017, please submit your session ideas here.

Summer Institute of Civic Studies

Frontiers is a public conference that follows immediately after the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students. The Summer Institute requires an application, and admissions decisions are usually made in May. Prospective applicants should sign up on the Summer Institute page to receive more information.

Preconference Symposium

The Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and The Democracy Imperative are organizing a symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism” (June 22, 2017, from 9 am to 4 pm). Tickets are available via the main conference registration page. Symposium on Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.

Summary: Since around 1990, educators and practitioners on the front line of democratic renewal have been calling for public policy and decision making in which members of a community engage in dialogue and a process of public reasoning to effectuate new policies and social change. Ideally, deliberative democracy offers all members of a society, even those with minority opinions, an opportunity to express their viewpoints and influence change. In this era of extreme political polarization, however, deliberation has been criticized by the right as a form of liberal indoctrination and by the left as inadequate to ensure that the voices of those without power are heard.

The rise to power by undemocratic political leaders worldwide raises questions about the efficacy of deliberative — and arguably overly inclusive – approaches to governance. Activism on behalf of democratic systems and outcomes might outweigh the desire for an inclusive process when some views are simply so undemocratic that they have no place in a process of public reasoning.

This year, the Frontiers of Democracy conference will examine the rise of authoritarianism driven by xenophobic and illiberal influences globally and in the U.S. Sponsored by the Journal of Public Deliberation, this day-long symposium will consider a narrower question, is there a role for deliberative democracy in an age of rising authoritarianism? This challenge is exacerbated in a highly pluralistic and relatively wealthy society like the U.S., where the context includes culture wars, fake news, distrust of government, disregard for science, facts, and evidence, and extreme wealth disparities. The outcome of this symposium will be a series of papers to be published by the Journal of Public Deliberation as a symposium in the fall 2017.

Frontiers of Democracy 2016

The annual Frontiers of Democracy conference took place on June 23-25, 2016, at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus. Read about Frontiers of Democracy 2016 here, view our photo album on Facebook. Or check out the online conversation as it happened through #DemFront! You can also review this list of resources and presentations publicly shared by Frontiers participants.

Videos of all of the 2016 conference’s short-take speakers are below:

Frontiers 2016 Speaker Bios

The conference featured brief, inspiring “short take” talks from the following speakers. Click Watch to see their individual presentations.

AllenFrontiersDanielle 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. Watch

GrattanFrontiersLaura 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. Watch

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. Watch

LandemoreFrontiersHélène 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. Watch

MooreLappeFrontiersFrances 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.” Lappé’s PowerPoint is hereWatch

PeixotoFrontiersTiago 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. Watch

Talmon SmithTalmon 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. Watch

YangFrontiersVictor 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. Watch

There was also 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 was spent on 90-minute, interactive sessions called “learning exchanges.” For details, please visit this page.

Frontiers of Democracy 2015

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 #DemFrontView the full list of the 2015 learning exchanges and the 2015 schedule.


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.