2009 National Conference

No Better Time: Promising Opportunities in Deliberative Democracy for Educators and Practitioners

TDI Conference Postcard

July 8 – July 11, 2009
The University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H.

This conference was organized jointly by The Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on a wing, a prayer, and a shoestring. We felt we had to pull it off – despite the time we knew it would take, despite the drain on our organizations, despite the economy – because there does indeed seem to be “No Better Time” to about the challenges and opportunities facing our democracy. The strong response we have received to this conference, in the form of over-capacity registrations and the richness of the proposed learning exchanges, confirms our decision to go forward.

We noted several major trends that have emerged in public life:

  • A sea change in citizen attitudes and capacities, which has been reshaping local political and community action movements for at least a decade;
  • The power of those citizen – and particularly youth – capacities as the core ingredient in national, state, and local electoral strategies;
  • Growing interest on campuses – without any one obvious “hub” – in deliberative democracy as academic content, pedagogy, and as essential to strong community-university partnerships;
  • The increasing use of new technologies to facilitate and accelerate these trends.

And within the field, we have seen much stronger connections between academics and practitioners working on deliberative democracy, and a greater sense that the different models and approaches we use to engage citizens are pointing toward shared goals. We are making progress – and at the same time, our work surfaces new challenges and complications even as it surmounts old ones. No Better Time participants considered two core questions:

  • How do we move from diffuse democratic experiments to more comprehensive democratic systems?
  • How do we educate and prepare citizens to be more effective participants in a just and deliberative democracy?

Participants designed more than 50 learning exchanges that are posted on the No Better Time (NBT) Conference Sessions and Related Resources page. Explore this page to find advance reading materials, session summaries, and session notes.


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