Democracy In Practice participating in the World Forum for Democracy. Photos by Klara Beck, 2016. © Council of Europe.

For the first time, Democracy In Practice was invited by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament to participate in the World Forum for Democracy, from November 7-9, in Strasbourg, France. The Forum provides a platform for activists, academics, and political decision-makers to come together and dialogue about solutions to the key challenges facing democracy. This year’s Forum brought together over 130 speakers and 2000 participants from over 100 countries around the world, and had a particular focus that aligned well with our work: the relationship between education and democracy.

Simon Pek and Adam Cronkright from our team presented as part of Lab 1 – Reinventing school governance, which also included inspiring presentations from the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) and the Ministry of Education of Andorra. The rest of the Lab was dedicated to discussion with participants, which gave us the opportunity to answer great questions about our initiative and the innovative practices we are experimenting with, such as the random selection of representatives. The entire Lab can be listened to here: Lab 1 Podcast. When the session concluded, we met many interesting people dedicated to democracy and we were able to hear their perspectives on our work and about the great work that they are doing.

Simon and Adam were also later interviewed by Patrick Chalmers as part of the Democracy Talk podcast series, and asked where Democracy In Practice is going with the “radical” ideas that we are implementing in schools. The entire interview was captured in the following video.

Democracy In Practice interviewed by Patrick Chalmers of Democracy Talk

Our Student-Powered Democratic Experimentation initiative was selected as one of three finalists for the 2016 Democracy Innovation Award, by a jury consisting of members of the Scientific Committee of the World Forum for Democracy. Being finalists for the Award provided us a second opportunity to present our work, this time in front of the entire Forum in the closing plenary session on the final day of the event.

The session opened with strong and inspiring words from Professor Lyn Carson of the newDemocracy Foundation (one of Democracy In Practice’s Advisors), Professor Graham Smith from the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, and Rosemary Blecher, Editor of OpenDemocracy. All of the panelists called for approaches to the problems of democracy that look beyond elections and beyond politics as usual. Afterwards, speakers from each of the three selected initiatives were allotted 5 minutes each. On behalf of our team, Adam presented our initiative and made a call for more creative experimentation and for people to take action for “real and profound systemic change, that changes the way power is distributed.”

Watch the full video of the closing plenary session here: Closing Plenary of the World Forum for Democracy. Adam’s speech starts at about 1 hour 37 minutes.

Participants at the event voted for one of the three finalists, and in the end the most votes went to the German initiative Kiron, which gives refugees access to higher education worldwide. Our congratulations to Kiron, and to the other finalist, the MaYouth educational initiative from Zimbabwe. It was an honor for us to be recognized in this manner, and it capped off an amazing experience for Democracy In Practice in Strasbourg at the World Forum for Democracy!