In the fall of 2006, a small group of academics and civic leaders met and began exchanging ideas about some sticky problems in American public life: a disengaged citizenry; public dissatisfaction with partisan politics; an increasingly polarized public in which people move into ideological camps rather than seek common solutions; growing economic and political inequality; disturbing trends regarding civil liberties, and, on campuses, academic freedom and free speech; and environmental sustainability. Each academic in the group approached democratic education differently, by teaching: democracy’s foundational ideals, conflict resolution, communication, intergroup dialogue, deliberation, democratic leadership, diversity, and public engagement. The practitioners were affiliated with civic organizations dedicated to strengthening democratic principles and practices in U.S. public life.
We decided to host an invitational gathering to widen the circle of people who share these concerns. In June 2007, nearly 50 multidisciplinary scholars, campus leaders, and civic leaders came together at the University of New Hampshire to consider the role colleges and universities should play to advance the principles and practices of a just and deliberative democracy.
After four days of dialogue and planning, we created The Democracy Imperative, a national network of scholars, campus leaders, and civic leaders committed to strengthening democracy in and through higher education. We agreed that, for as long as we can, resources we produce will be open source, and that membership will be free. Since July 2007, we’ve grown to over 600 members.
Click here to find out what we do.