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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. The 2018 conference will take place from June 21 (5:00 p.m.) until June 23 (1:00 p.m.) at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus in Chinatown.

Partners for the conference in 2018 include the Bridge Alliance, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

You can now register and pay to hold a spot. Please note that speakers and session organizers must purchase tickets.

Frontiers 2018 Theme

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. This year, Frontiers will bring people from these communities of scholarship and practice together to ask how they can learn from and complement each another.

Propose a Session

You may propose sessions for Frontiers 2018 using this form. For best consideration, please submit your proposals ASAP. Three kinds of proposals are welcome:

  1. A presentation by you (or by you with a colleague) that the conference organizers can combine with other presentations to create a session
  2. A panel that you organize with several other confirmed presenters
  3. Another other kind of session that you organize, such as a design workshop, deliberation, debate, planning meeting, training session, etc.

Individual presentations are limited to 10 minutes. Sessions last 90 minutes and must use interactive formats. The submission form will require the names and contact information of your confirmed co-presenters. You may propose more than one idea using the same form.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately follows the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a selective 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students. Applications for the Summer Institute are being received until March 16, 2018.

Frontiers 2018 Agenda (In Progress)

The agenda is still being planned, and we are still accepting proposals. The following list indicates the kinds of sessions and presentations that are already planned.

Keynotes Confirmed So Far

“Innovating Democracy Reform”
Josh Silver, Founder & Executive Director,

“Activism under Fire: Violence, Poverty and Collective Action in Rio de Janeiro”
Anjuli Fahlberg, Northeastern University

"Fear and Present Danger"
Kelly Greenhill, Tufts University

“The Disenfranchised”
Sekwan R. Merritt and Marcus Lilly, formerly incarcerated people who advocate for an end to mass incarceration in America

“Overcoming Civic Fragmentation Through Public Work”
Harry Boyte, Augsburg College

Presentations and Sessions Confirmed So Far

The category headings are for information only. Some titles refer to standalone sessions, while others will be combined to create panels.

Institutions in Communities

“How Can Museums Strengthen a Civil Society?”
Abby Pfisterer, Education Specialist; Magdalena Mieri, National Museum of American History; Rebekah Hardingrharding, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library; Michelle Martz, Lincoln Cottage; Teresita Paniagua, La Casita; Noelle Trent, National Civil Rights Museum; Dory Lerner, National Civil Rights Museum; Abby Kiesa, Director of Impact, CIRCLE, Tisch College

“The Role of Religious Communities in Strengthening Democracy”
Elizabeth Gish, Western Kentucky University, and John Dedrick, Kettering Foundation

“Civic Tinkering as Democratic Practice”
Scott Tate, Virginia Tech

Youth Voice

“The 2016 Boston Student Walkout Movement: Stories, Strategies, and Impacts”
Andrew King, Mark Warren, Mariette Ayala, Kate Kelly, Jeff Moyer, and Luis Navarro

“Unchaining the Power of Student Voices”
Frank LoMonte, The Brechner Center, and Zack Mezera, Providence Student Union

“Building Agency and Voice in Student Activists”
Pamela Conners and Leila Brammer, Gustavus Adolphus College

Media and Tech

“Data Justice: A Hands-On Workshop”
Libby Falck, MIT

“Civic Entertainment”
Anushka Shah, MIT Media Lab

“Votes that Count and Voters Who Don’t: How Journalists Sideline Electoral Participation"
Sharon Jarvis, University of Texas at Austin and Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life

“If Only Journalists Care about the Future of Journalism, Democracy is in Trouble”
Fiona Morgan, Free Press     

“What are the Responsibilities of Civic Technology?”
Erhardt Graeff, MIT Media Lab

“Bridging the US Political Divide Online: What we Learned from Using Big Data”
Kate Mytty, Build Up

Education (K12 and College)

“Civic Learning and Young Citizens: Democratic Engagements in Higher Education “
Ivy Dhar, School of Development Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD), and Nidhi S. Sabharwal, Centre for Policy Research in Higher Education (CPRHE), National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), India

“Deliberative Dialogue in Classrooms and Other Settings”
Sharyn Lowenstein and Denny Frey, Lasell College

Connecting the Public and Government

“The Missing Link: Connecting Our Work to The People Who Need It”
Larry Schooler, National Civic League

“State of the Congress: Staff Perspectives on Congressional Capacity”
Kathy Goldschmidt, Congressional Management Foundation

Getting Past Division

“How can we productively talk about divisiveness in a time of polarized public discourse?”           
Elizabeth Gish, Western Kentucky University, and John Dedrick, Kettering Foundation     

“Civility In Our Democracy – Collaborating and Rebuilding Bridges of Trust, and Respect”
Cheryl Graeve and Makayla Meachem, National Institute for Civil Discourse

“The Habits of Highly Effective Citizens: What Do We Need to Learn Today?” 
Chad Raphael, Santa Clara University

“‘Don't Think of an …’  a Co-Creative Workshop Toward Pro-Democracy Political Messaging”
Ellen Roche, Lead Strategist, Provoc

"Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?"
Courtney Breese, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)

State-Wide Strategies

“Democracy in your backyard: Building local and state capacity for participatory public engagement”
Quixada Moore-Vissing, Michele Holt-Shannon, and Bruce Mallory, New Hampshire Listens

“Civic Health in a Changing Landscape: Arizona as a Case Study”
Kristi Tate, Center for the Future of Arizona

Improving Congress

“State of the Congress: Staff Perspectives on Congressional Capacity”
Kathy Goldschmidt, Congressional Management Foundation

“Building a Directly Representative Democracy”
Michael Neblo, Ohio State University, and David Lazer, Northeastern University

“Using Common Ground for Action to Build Directly Representative Democracy”
Amy Lee, Kettering Foundation

Frontiers 2017

Thanks to everyone who joined us at an exciting, thought-provoking, and timely Frontiers of Democracy 2017. You can watch video of this year's introduction, "short take" speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, below. (You can click on each video's title to watch on YouTube and, in the description, find timestamps that allow you to skip to a specfiic speaker's presentation.)

Frontiers 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 schedule.

Sign up for Updates

Fill out this short form for occasional announcements about the Frontiers of Democracy Conference and the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. Please note that completing this form does not mean that you have officially applied to either.