Revitalizing Democracy (starting locally)

“Objective: To create a robust, functioning network of cities and organizations dedicated to promoting and fortifying democratic participation and civic engagement at a local level. We want to build a platform for mutual aid between all those building democracy with city government.”

This is the ambitious goal of Democracy Cities, a new initiative spearheaded by Scott Warren, co-founder and former CEO of Generation Citizen, an organization dedicated to encouraging civic education and participation among young people. (The Summer 2017 issue of the National Civic Review had an article on Generation Citizen’s advocacy of youth voting in local elections.)

Warren is currently serving as a visiting fellow at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at John Hopkins University, where he is working on launching this new initiative. The premise behind Democracy Cities is that democracy is struggling these days in the U.S. and other countries around the world.

People are distrustful of government and increasingly disdainful of those who don’t agree with them. But it is at the local level of politics and government where folks still have some confidence that they can make a difference, a fact we learn anew every year during the All-America City Awards.

To quote from a written overview of the new initiative provided by Scott Warren: “This project…begins with the simple thesis that cities and municipalities can engage in comprehensive and effective work to promote democracy and citizen participation in their own jurisdictions.”

To set about proving this premise, participants intend to compile a set of “case studies of how cities are actively promoting democratic practices and citizen participation through innovative programming and resource allocation.”

Then the initiative will take these cases studies and develop concrete “ideas on how cities can execute effectively on a strategy to promote democracy and citizen participation.”

Initiative participants are in the process of developing an interactive website that will house the case studies and a comprehensive map of the network of “ecosystem” of cities and organizations that are engaged in democracy building work, among other features.

For more information, contact Scott Warren.

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