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Frontiers of Democracy Conference

Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University since 2009.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the 2020 Frontiers of Democracy conference has been canceled.

The conference was set to take place from June 18 (5pm) to June 20 (noon) at the downtown Boston campus of Tufts University. It would follow the American Political Science Association’s Institute for Civically Engaged Research and precede the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, and convene members of those two programs plus about 100 others: activists and practitioners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; scholars, educators, students; and more. The agenda included short plenary talks, concurrent sessions, and interactive activities for the large group. A major objective is to build relationships among people who work in diverse ways at the frontiers of democracy in the United States and around the world.

The 2019 Conference

In 2019, the conference took place from June 20-22 at the downtown Boston campus of Tufts University. The inaugural fellowship class of the Lead for America program, participants in the American Political Science Association’s Institute of Civically Engaged Research (ICER), and current and past participants in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies were part of the conference. Frontiers 2019 was co-sponsored by Cities of Service, Lead for America, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the Bridge Alliance.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately preceded the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a selective seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students.

Check out the full 2019 Frontiers agenda to learn more about the speakers and panelists who presented at the conference. Below, you can watch this year's introduction and "short take" speakers, or click on the links to skip to individual speakers' presentations:

  • Introduction by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Tisch College and conference organizer
  • Robert Lieberman, Johns Hopkins University & American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research
  • Jarvis Hall, North Carolina Central University, on "The Genesis of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina"
  • Maya Pace, Lead for America, “Start Where You Live”
  • Jamila Michener, Cornell University, “Health Equity and Democracy”
  • Wendy Willis, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, "What's Creed Got to Do With It? (A Meditation)"
  • Andi Crawford, Director of Empowerment and Citizen Engagement for the City of Lansing, MI, “Love Your Block in #LOVELansing”

Frontiers 2018

The 2018 conference took place on June 21-23 at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus in Chinatown. Partners for the conference in 2018 included the Bridge Alliance, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

According to Freedom House, democracy has been in retreat worldwide for 12 years. Many people are pushing back, including activists and organizers who are nonviolently struggling, using tactics like strikes, boycotts, and mass demonstrations against entrenched power. Other individuals and groups take different approaches, some seeking a greater degree of neutrality and emphasizing deliberative dialogue, particularly when they work within institutions such as schools, public agencies, and newspapers. In 2018, Frontiers brought people from these communities of scholarship and practice together to ask how they can learn from and complement each another.

You can review the full Frontiers 2018 agenda here. You can also watch full video of this year's introduction and "short take" speakers below.

Frontiers 2017

Frontiers of Democracy 2017 was focused on multiple frameworks for civic and democratic work developed, respectively, by Caesar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine. Our short take speakers included Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, the senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri; Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center; and Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

In addition, the Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and The Democracy Imperative held a preconference symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.”

Check out the preconference symposium's agenda and readings and the full Frontiers 2017 agenda. You can watch video of that year's introduction, "short take" speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, on our YouTube channel.

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