Concurrent Sessions

Please see the main conference page for the whole agenda.

Friday AM, session 1 (9:00-10:30 am)

Civic Ecology: Scaling up and out from local environmental stewardship 

Friday AM session 1

Civic Ecology practices are community-organized environmental stewardship initiatives like community gardening; citizen tree planting; mangrove, dune, stream, and oyster restoration; litter cleanups; and friends of cemeteries or parks groups. These practices occur where long-term disinvestment has resulted in vacant lots and other degraded open space (such as Detroit or Manila), or after conflict or sudden disaster (such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina). However, the individual, community, and environmental impacts of these practices are limited by the fact that they occur in small spaces. We draw on case studies from the US, India, Iran, and elsewhere to explore possibilities for civic ecology practices to influence management and policy more broadly, through becoming part of online learning and governance networks.

Marianne Krasny, Civic Ecology Lab, Cornell University
Philip Silva, Civic Ecology Lab, Cornell University

Civic Science: New Approaches to Build Science for the Public Good
Friday AM session 1

From designer babies to the Planned Parenthood controversy to the Flint water crisis, the politicized rhetoric about science-based public issues has reached dramatic levels, limiting public discussion and problem solving. Beyond this, systems built to support science do not reward moral courage and continue to undermine public faith in science. A “Civic Science” approach can impact public work on science-based issues by building new understandings of the practices and cultures of science. Civic science reconsiders scientific practices and scientific knowledge as resources for civic engagement, democratic action and social change. In this session, participants will examine how a Civic Science approach can facilitate dialogue about polarizing science-based issues and develop capacities that inform advocacy and governance to enhance science for the public good.

Jonathan Garlick, Tufts University
Stephen Lester, Center for Health, Environment and Justice

Youth Politics: Philosophical and Practical Perspectives Fri AM session 1

Youth politics is traditionally thought of in one of two ways: dissent or apathy. Consequentially, we often see older generations assume the role of executive decision-makers in response to youth political movements. Are their claims justified? Are their solutions reasonable, or even realistic? This session proposes that we detach ourselves from this simplistic approach to youth politics and investigate different ways of understanding its role in the wider political process. The first half of this session will focus on conceiving of youth movements as offering radical moral and political hypotheses. The second half will demonstrate powerful, new engagement tools driven by technology–creating a simple but powerful two-way feedback loop between youth communities and the organizations, institutions and elected officials that represent them.

Alex Schreiner, icitizen
Joshua Forstenzer, University of Sheffield

Teaching Democracy: Why what we teach & how we teach in K-12 classrooms matters to all of us. 
Friday AM session 1

The Alliance for Teaching Democracy began last year as an answer to the question: What should we do to help teachers teach democracy? K-12 teachers face under enormous pressure and constraints from administrators, parents and the community when it comes to discussing issues surrounding elections (including voting) and teaching controversial issues despite overwhelming evidence showing that students greatly benefit from issue discussion and that students who register and vote early become habitual voters. This election cycle has been particularly challenging with some principals issuing gag orders on discussing anything relating to the election. Discuss ways to support teachers in your community as they teach for democracy. The PowerPoint from this session is here.

Abby Kiesa, CIRCLE
Scot Wilson, Indiana University, Graduate School of Education
Rachel Talbert, Close Up Foundation
Tricia Gray and Aprille Philips, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Prevent, Promote, Plan 
Friday AM session 1

Researcher and practitioner David Rock has developed an acronym – SCARF – to describe what people scan for when they enter a meeting: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness (SCARF). In this session, we’ll take a closer look at how facilitators and participants in group processes can move toward more systematic approaches, starting before invitations have been extended. This workshop explores ways to minimize “avoid” responses and maximize “approach” responses through careful meeting design.

Bob Stains, Public Conversations Project

Advocacy in Society
Friday AM session 1

The session will break several myths about advocacy and will present advocacy tactics implemented worldwide. While every advocacy campaign starts with idea or interest, we will examine how to get politics on your side when you have interest/ idea to promote. With the use of case studies we will determine the place of interests and ideas in advocacy and will practice negotiations as advocacy instrument.

During the session we will identify successful cases of advocacy as well as lost opportunities. In interractive format we will analyse what motivates advocacy in society. The session is to be concluded with role-palying exercise aiming at practicing advocacy methods in different settings. The PowerPoint is here.

Svitlana Batsyukova, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine



Friday AM, session 2

Making It Official: Legislative and Executive Authorization of Public Deliberation Fri AM session 2

Description – Some of the ideas for democratic reform lend themselves to institutionalization through government. Whether via legislation or direct executive action, new methods of public engagement can become part of a city, state, or nation’s infrastructure for public consultation and participation. This session will invite participants to share their experiences and aspirations for institutionalizing deliberative reforms, and we will draw on the expertise of session organizers, who have played different roles in the 2011 legislative process that established the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) Commission and in the CIR pilot programs to extend this process to Arizona, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

Jessie Conover, Healthy Democracy
John Gastil, Penn State University
Ana Babovic, Harvard University
Jon Hecht, Massachusetts State Representative

Examining Civic Landscapes through Analysis of Root Causes of Social Issues, Points of Leverage and Strategies
Friday AM session 2

The collective power constituted in the loose network of organizations, associations and movements that comprise the civic landscape is crucial for addressing deep inequities in who flourishes and who suffers. Engaging in collective analysis of root causes, points of leverage and strategies to address particular social issues can reveal tensions and opportunities in the civic landscape as well as strengthen shared commitment to and inform action in multiple levels of a system, from individual to structural. In this session, we will engage in collective analysis, building the foundation for a broader discussion on the tensions and opportunities that exist across the sometimes conflicting civic strategies that aim to address the same social issue. We’ll conclude with a discussion on implications for practice and scholarship.

Alisa Pykett, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Paula Tran Inzeo, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Bringing Young People to the Table: Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Youth Engagement
Friday AM session 2

Young people make up a vital part of our communities, and engaging them brings diverse perspectives, new solutions to old problems, and cultivates the next generation of engaged citizens. However, if we’re not intentional about taking steps to include this demographic, things like unspoken norms, transportation issues, and not having a space to speak in meetings can prevent them from becoming or staying involved. We’ll talk about specific ways you can overcome barriers to youth engagement that will make your effort more inclusive of young people and other underrepresented groups. We’ll also hear several examples from real communities that have involved young people in different ways. Participants will have the chance to put their new knowledge into practice and to explore solutions to the specific challenges their community may be facing related to youth engagement. Documents and slides from this session are here.

Rebecca Reyes, Everyday Democracy
Malana Rogers-Bursen, Everyday Democracy

Politics of discontent: it seems to work in practice, but can it work in theory?
Friday AM session 2

In 2016 all around the world political discontent is palpable, takes many forms, and is not only to be found in the US presidential race. This session will respond to this reality as an issue for civic theory. We will begin with a panel discussion addressing a number of issues and questions: Mainstream empirical political science has trouble with the politics of discontent. Both the collapse of communism and the success of Trump and Sanders came as a surprise. What kind of theory do we need to understand and recognize the potential of politics of discontent? Can and should civic theory be helpful to the politics of discontent? What role do or should emotions, such as discontent, play in civic theories? After short interventions by the panelists, we will open up the discussion to all participants.

Pete Davis, Harvard University
Peter Levine, Tufts University
Joshua Miller, Loyola University
Karol Soltan, University of Maryland
Alison Staudinger, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

To Reduce Inequality, Do We Need Better Democracy?
Friday AM session 2

When people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, they will be better off economically as well as politically. This idea has intrigued community development experts, foundation executives, public officials and academic researchers for many years. It has also animated some of the work people and governments are undertaking to address inequality, both in the United States and (especially) in the Global South. But can participatory democracy lead to greater economic opportunity? We are just beginning to amass evidence that this premise holds true, understand how and why the idea works, and figure out how to make it happen better and faster. This session will present some of that data, including initial findings form learning curve research conducted by the Yankelovich Center for Public Judgement along with the preliminary findings from the 2016 National Issues Forums on “Making Ends Meet,” as part of a lively discussion among researchers, practitioners, and advocates.

Matt Leighninger, Public Agenda
John Dedrick, The Kettering Foundation

Elections and Political Learning in Higher Education: Establishing New Political Learning and Engagement Opportunities in an Unequal Society
Friday AM session 2

This learning exchange will consider how colleges and universities can leverage opportunities presented during an election season to examine deficits and opportunities for  historically marginalized and underrepresented students to engage in political learning, discourse, and action. Participants will explore emerging  findings from a series of case studies of highly politically and electorally engaged colleges and universities nationwide. They will examine the role of power on campus and how it affects student learning.  The session will then conclude with a discussion of how institutions can leverage the elections as opportunities for students to grapple with problems of democracy during the election and beyond.

Margaret Brower, Tufts University
Jodi Benenson, Tufts University
Ishara Casellas Connors, Tufts University
Alena Roshko, Tufts University<


Friday PM

Growing Your Grassroots Efforts 
Friday PM – session 3

“Grassroots” has been used to describe the political and economic might of the people for over 100 years. Join icitizen as we explore the frontiers of civic technology and its effects on cornerstones of grassroots movements.

This rising tide of 21st-century tools is going to forever change the way we engage our communities. Whether you work with constituents, supporters, or students…a community that’s informed and empowered is far more likely to mobilize around issues they care about. This fun and interactive Learning Exchange will show you how civic technology collects powerful data through direct communication with your community—data that can be used to drive growth, engagement, fundraising and awareness while measuring the impact of your efforts.

Alida Beck, icitizen
Alex Schreiner, icitizen

Faith Communities on the Frontiers of Democracy
Friday PM session 3

In a time when religious identity and rhetoric can be divisive, this learning exchange provides tools to strengthen deliberative and democratic work in and across faith communities. How can we engage across diverse traditions in ways that take religious difference seriously, but also learn to identify common ground? This session is geared both toward those involved in faith networks, and also to those who are not involved in a religious community or spiritual tradition but want to know how to better navigate this complicated terrain. We will explore how to respond to the challenges that religious rhetoric and difference can pose to democratic life, and discuss ways to identify and build on the the important work that takes place in and grows out of religious communities.

John Dedrick, The Kettering Foundation
Whittney Barth, The Pluralism Project, Harvard University
Elizabeth Gish, Honors College, Western Kentucky University

The Praxis of Participation: From Theory to Mucking Around on the Ground 
Friday PM session 3

This 90-minute Learning Exchange will apply Archon Fung’s (2015) three-part values framework for public participation to case examples drawn from the work of New Hampshire Listens over the past several years. Fung asserts that effectiveness, legitimacy, and social justice are the cornerstone values of participatory governance. We have applied these values in a range of deliberative democratic strategies, and had success as well as failures along the way. After sharing these examples, we will ask workshop participants to apply the values to their own work as a means to reflect on how their practices can be deepened and improved.

Michele Holt-Shannon,
University of New Hampshire

Bruce Mallory,
University of New Hampshire

Defining Civic Learning in Cultural Institutions
Friday PM session 3

Preparing young people to be engaged and informed citizens requires robust civic education opportunities that encourage them to seek out information, think critically about challenging issues, and get involved. Museums and cultural institutions are home to rich and vast resources – collections, locations, and historic legacies – that can be powerful tools for this type of civic education by sparking discussions between strangers, creating opportunities to explore issues in different ways, and catalyzing new ideas. In this session we will discuss the importance of civic education and why museums and cultural institutions are part of this field, and share ideas about what learning experiences look like in these organizations.

This learning exchange is the first part of a two-session series on this topic, to be continued Saturday morning.

Naomi Coquillon, National Museum of American History
Magdalena Mieri, National Museum of American History
Abby Kiesa, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE)
Abby Pfisterer, Morven Park Center for Civic Impact

Title: From Voice to Influence: Educating Civic Agents in the Digital Age
Friday PM – session 3

In this one-and-a-half hour interactive workshop, participants will learn key participation design principles, developed by the Youth Participatory Politics research team, and engage in exercises to connect them to their own research or professional contexts. Participants will discuss essential goals and strategies for designing civic practice in the digital age. Multiple perspectives are welcome. This workshop is open to a wide audience, not only to researchers but also to platform designers, educators, and other practitioners.

Chaebong Nam, Harvard University
Danielle Allen, Harvard University

Developing 21st Century Leaders for Equitable Community Change
Friday PM – session 3

This year, Everyday Democracy is launching its Democracy Institute. The Institute focuses on leadership development through civic engagement. In this learning exchange we will explore how we might innovate a new kind of leadership development in order to prepare the next generation of civic practitioners to lead, engage, and support movement building locally and nationally. Our approach will encourage voice, participation and action through the intersectionality of democratic practices and racial equity. Participants will engage in exploring possibilities for a different kind of leadership that addresses equitable social change in a democracy that works for all.
Carolyne Miller Abdullah, Everyday Democracy
Gwendolyn Whiting, Everyday Democracy


Text, Talk, Vote – Plenary
Friday PM

This will be the first presidential election in which Millennials will make up the same proportion of voters as the Baby Boomers. Yet in 2014, they voted at the lowest rates since the 1940s. Voting matters, and young Americans have an unprecedented power to shape election results and affect policies that matter to them – jobs and the economy, education, college affordability, and more. While prior generations participated in political conversations, both informal (at places of worship, barbershops, and diners) and formal (at town meetings, unions, schools and colleges), many of these opportunities no longer serve that purpose. In an effort to find new ways of engaging young people, TTV brings together small groups of people to participate in organic, face-to-face conversations facilitated through text messaging. Participants talk about how they feel about the state of the country and community, and how voting will make a difference. The platform enables them to see what others are talking about in real time, and aggregate data is shared with media and candidates to amplify their voices. In this session, participants will have an opportunity to try out Text, Talk, Vote and learn ways to bring it to their communities.

Taylor Share, National Institute for Civil Discourse




Civic Tech Panel
Civic technology is a rapidly expanding sector, attracting the interest of private-sector technologists, academics, civil servants and democracy advocates. This panel will discuss current and future tech developments for democracy building, as well as limitations and challenges created by a rapidly digitizing world. This panel will discuss what’s working in civic tech, how online engagement can be structured to help (instead of hinder) traditional engagement and applications to government and advocacy.
With: Carmen Hicks (Democracy Works), Nigel Jacob (City of Boston), Jesse Littlewood (Common Cause), and Chris Wells (University of Wisconsin)

On Building a Living Democracy Movement 
Saturday morning

A democracy movement is beginning to take shape, uniting organizations working to remove the grip of Big Money in our political system and to restore and protect voting rights. For the first time, significant issue-defined organizations are going beyond their specific foci to address the crisis of our democracy itself. Two historic public mobilizations (Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening) in Washington, D.C. in April brought national attention to citizen demands for systemic change. How can these and other efforts contribute to a “democracy movement?” How do we ensure that the passion, especially in young people, builds instead of ending up in deflation and disconnection? What are the most useful lessons to learn from earlier movements?

Frances Moore Lappé, Small Planet Institute

Social Media Legitimacy: From Policy to Neighborhood Action

Saturday morning

This learning exchange will address the topic of using social media to improve engagement between government and citizens. Participants will explore how organizations can improve policies and practices to maximize social media and hear examples of organizations that are working with citizens to solve local problems through social media. Participants will also take part in an exercise about overcoming barriers to realizing success in social media and how to use Nextdoor’s polling feature to build better communities.

James Toscano, The Dots Matter
Joseph Porcelli,

Democratic Reading and Writing
Saturday morning

Danielle Allen’s Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality argues that we are equal when we are co-creators of our shared world, saying that “[t]he point of political equality is not merely to secure spaces free from domination but also to engage all members of a community equally in the work of creating and constantly re-creating that community” (34). She does this work in part by close reading the Declaration of Independence and considering the type of democratic writing that produced it. In this spirit, we’ll use this session to first discuss Allen’s treatment of the Declaration, with reference to her “Short Takes” talk and the idea of democratic writing (and reading!) as a way of co-creating, and then we’ll experiment with this work by closely reading a shared text and then working to together create a text of our own. Laptops or other devices that can access a shared writing space are encouraged, but not required.

Alison Staudinger, Democracy and Justice Studies, University of Wisconsin—Green Bay

Connecting Cultural Institutions to Catalyze Civic Education
Saturday morning 

Museums and cultural institutions are an important part of civic life and civic education because of their unique resources and stories that bring this type of learning to life. Ongoing exchanges of ideas and collaborations are critical for helping these educational opportunities grow and improve. This working session is the second step in the two-part series on civic education in cultural institutions and will focus on designing methods to enable continuing conversations amongst practitioners that can help us promote increasing and deepening this work.

Naomi Coquillon, National Museum of American History
Magdalena Mieri, National Museum of American History
Abby Kiesa, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE)
Abby Pfisterer, Morven Park Center for Civic Impact

Unlocking the Potential of Student Voice
Saturday morning

New research is confirming the link between schools supportive of a free and independent student press and a sense of civic efficacy and empowerment. But schools seeking to avoid controversy and reputational harm often discourage the discussion of sensitive social and political issues. A nationwide movement, “New Voices,” dedicated to enacting statutory protection for student journalists’ rights, has notched recent successes in Maryland and North Dakota, with efforts under way in 19 other states.

Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center
Adelina Colaku, Bard College student and
Tara Subramaniam, Georgetown U. student