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The annual “Frontiers of Democracy Conference” took place on June 23-25, 2016, at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus. This conference draws scholars and practitioners who strive to understand and improve people’s engagement with government, with communities, and with each other. Participants explored a broadly defined conception of democracy, looking at a breadth of civic practices that included deliberative democracy, civil and human rights, social justice, community organizing and development, civic learning and political engagement, the role of higher education in democracy, civic studies, media reform and citizen media production, civic technology, civic environmentalism, and common pool resource management.

While much of the conference focused on domestic politics and civics in the United States, a number of participants brought valuable international perspectives on civic engagement. In his talk on participatory democracy and technology, Tiago Peixoto described his findings that electronic voting lowered the transaction costs of civic participation and increased voting rates overall in certain regions of Brazil. However, it disproportionally increased the participation of educated, male, and higher income voters who have greater access to technology.

Hélène Landemore described new forms of representative government, including the participatory Icelandic constitutional process of 2010-2012, crowdsourced policy-making in Finland, and workplace democracy.

You can watch the conference “short talks,” including Peixoto and Landemore’s talks, here.

Frontiers conference pic

Participants in a workshop on the the civic impact of cultural institutions