Frontiers of Democracy: June 22-24, 2017

145 Harrison Avenue | Boston, MA, 02111 (Map)



We’ll be streaming the conference’s “short” take speeches and Friday’s “fishbowl discussion”
Watch live on Thursday 6:00-6:45 p.m. and Friday 3:00-6:00 p.m.


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, Everyday Democracy, the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, and 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.

Frontiers 2017 Schedule

View the full conference schedule, including speaker bios and session descriptions, here.

Thursday, 6/22

8:30 AM-4:00 PM             Preconference Symposium: Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism. View the full preconference schedule here


5:00 PM                                Registration and Reception

5:45 PM                                Welcome and Opening Remarks: Alan Solomont and Peter Levine, Tisch College

6:00-7:00 PM                     @Stake: A game for generating ideas and discussion.

7:00-7:45 PM                     “Short Takes” talks, followed by group discussion:

  • Dr. F. Willis Johnson, senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri
  • Wendy Willis, Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium; Director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table at Portland State University

Friday, 6/23          

8:00 AM                                 Breakfast/logistics

9:00-10:30 AM                    Plenary: Framework #1 for Civic Action:
Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT, presenting eight public engagement design principles to leverage the public’s voice in five strategic types of public dialogue

10:30-10:45 AM                  BREAK

10:45 AM-12:15 PM           Concurrent Sessions. Choose among:

1. Civic Gaming
Joshua Miller
, University of Baltimore; Daniel Levine, Community Mediation; Sarah Shugars, Northeastern University

2. How to Teach Democracy in Authoritarian Nations
Tianlong You
, Arizona State; Yao Lin, City University of Hong Kong

3. Are We Still Relevant? The role of Democratic Deliberation Innovators in a “Downgraded Democracy”
Jessie Conover, Healthy Democracy; Ashley Trim, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic

4. How Do We Midwife the Emergence of Wise Governance Networks?
Tracy Kunkler
, Circle Forward; Tom Atlee, Co-Intelligence Institute; Steve Waddell, Networking Action

5. Beyond Novelty: What Sustainable Civic Media Practice Looks Like
Eric Gordon
and Gabriel Mugar, Emerson College Engagement Lab

6. Working to Instill Intellectual Humility in our Classrooms and Civic Life
Jonathan Garlick
, Tufts University and Lauren Barthold, Endicott College and Essential Partners

7. Crime, Safety and Justice: Creating Opportunities for Citizen Decision-Making
Amy Lee
and John Dedrick, Kettering Foundation; Carolyne Abdullah, Everyday Democracy; Kristen Cambell, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

8. How to Start a Revolution
Maureen White
, strategy consultant; Pedja Stojicic, Senior Scholar for Stewardship and Engagement, ReThink Health

12:15 PM                               LUNCH     

1:15-2:45 PM                       Plenary: Framework #2 for Civic Action
Donata Secondo,
 Manager of Learning and Strategy at the Democracy Fund, and Joe Goldman, President of the Democracy Fund, with systems maps for civic renewal

2:45-3:00 PM                       BREAK

3:00-4:15 PM                       Plenary: Framework #3 for Civic Action:
A “Fishbowl” Discussion of a draft Strategic Framework from Civic Nation + Co., moderated by Edna Ishayik of Civic Nation. Work on the Framework is supported by the Joyce Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In the fishbowl:

  • Jeff Coates, National Conference on Citizenship
  • Felton (Tony) Earls, Harvard University
  • Lewis A. Friedland, University of Wisconsin
  • Edna Ishayik, Civic Nation
  • Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Tufts University
  • Taeku Lee, University of California-Berkeley
  • Carmen Sirianni, Brandeis University
  • Janet Tran, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute

4:15-6:00 PM                       “Short Takes” talks, followed by group discussion 

  • Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
  • Rekha Datta, Professor of Political Science at Monmouth University
  • Ashley Trim, Executive Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University
  • Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts

 Saturday, 6/24

8:00-9:00 AM                       Networking breakfast

9:00-10:30 AM                     Concurrent Sessions. Choose among:

9. Teaching Youth Participatory Politics in Higher Education
Chaebong Nam, Harvard University

10. Working in and with Faith Communities in Times of Democratic Crisis
Elizabeth Gish
, Western Kentucky University; John Dedrick, The Kettering Foundation

11. The Battle for the Soul of Our Republic
Adam Eichen, Small Planet Institute

12. Democratizing Our Schools: Using New Student Government Models to Empower a Generation to Defend and Expand Democracy
Roshan Bliss, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation; J.A. Strub, Students Organizing for Democratic Alternatives; Shari Davis, Participatory Budgeting Project; Adam Gismondi, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

13. How might citizens use principles of opening governance to confront authoritarianism?
John Harlow, Research Network on Opening Governance, Arizona State University
Center for Policy Informatics

14. How to Make Public Engagement Truly Engaging
Maureen White, Former Public Engagement Campaign Manager, Go Boston 2030

15. Putting Democracy to Work: Community Action that Binds, Not Divides
Rob Jones and Meagan Picard, Founding Forward Democracy Labs

16. Social Emergency Response Centers
Kenneth Bailey, Design Studio for Social Innovation; Alvaro Lima, Digaai

17. Leadership Styles and Phases in Social Movements
Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

10:30-10:45 AM                  BREAK

10:45 AM-12:15 PM           Plenary: Framework #4 for Civic Action:
Archon Fung,
Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, will present a framework for thinking about power. Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research at Tisch College, will present this framework for how to respond to the present crisis. Then participants will work in groups of eight to apply the frameworks and add ideas to a Google doc.

12:15-12:30 PM                   Closing Remarks

View the full conference schedule, including speaker bios and session descriptions, here.

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 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). Tickets are available via the main conference registration page. Symposium on Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.

View the full preconference schedule here.

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.

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.

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.