About the Community

You may have heard the phrase, “democracy is not a spectator sport.”  Yet despite that common conviction, the reality is that most people worldwide  — including in the DC region — participate little if at all in their democracies, usually only by consuming news and/or mis- or disinformation, talking with friends or family, and periodically voting.  Further, among the relative few who participate, too many do not support some of the basic tenets of democracy, like free and fair elections, rule of law, and minority rights.

There is no lack of ideas and proposals to widen and deepen participation, and more generally to strengthen democracy and civility, but democratic institutions and behavior do not tend to follow.  One reason is that democracy is often ponderous and acrimonious, which for some people makes it less attractive than decisive authoritarian leaders, and for many people, less attractive than the fast-moving, eye-catching, commercial products of entertainment and media industries.  Another reason is that democracy has tended to be restricted to government and elections, so most people have little practical experience with democracy in their everyday lives.

Learning Life believes that overcoming these challenges requires, among other things, bringing democracy into people’s lives through activities that connect, inform, entertain, and inspire collaborations — from democracy speed networking, skills workshops and collaboration conferences, to democracy dinners, markets and festivals.  Thus, Learning Life focuses on nurturing a democratic culture.  While many organizations are rightly focused on changing government policy to strengthen democracy, fewer organizations are working on cultivating the wider culture of democracy that can support good policymaking.

Accordingly, in 2019, in response to growing threats to democracy in the USA and abroad, Learning Life launched the DMV (the DC-MD-VA metro region) Democracy Learning Community (DLC).  The DLC is an association of DC area individuals and organizations working to make democracy more fun and inclusive by connecting professionals, publics and policymakers via social events, products, services and spaces that nurture fun, learning, networking, collaboration and wider, deeper citizen participation.

Here is what Learning Life is working on to build the DMV DLC:

(1) Our Democracy Dinners have, since June 2019, brought together diverse people in the Washington DC area (the DC-MD-VA or DMV metro region) to nurture deeper conversation about the challenges and possibilities for democracy at local to global levels.  Starting in 2023, the topic of the Dinners’ discussion has focused on visioning and organizing the DMV Democracy Festival.

(2) The DMV Democracy Festival (DemFest), the first planned for October 2024, will involve democracy-related arts performances, game rooms, discussions, skill-building workshops, and a democracy market.  Learning Life is working to build a festival that helps make democracy fun, centers students, and is family friendly, financially sustainable, and collaborative.  There are many ways for individuals and organizations to take part, as artists, speakers, discussants, tablers or vendors, gamers, sponsors, etc.  Take our DemFest Partner Survey to indicate how you or your organization would like to be involved, or our DemFest Attendance RSVP if you would simply like to get updates and attend the Festival.

(3) The Security Learning Community is an example of a DLC that brings together diverse metro DC high school, college and graduate students as well as junior to senior professionals interested in security issues.  The SLC at once helps (a) participants network, learn, and advance their careers, (b) nurture more informed, caring and connected citizens, (c) bridge our regions’ sharp socio-economic divides, (d) foster community and civic volunteerism through social activities like online opportunity meetings, in-person issue dinners, and an annual youth assembly on security for high school students.  More about this new DLC initiative to come.

(4) The DLC visioning articles we are writing and publishing help people envision what a vibrant democracy learning community can look like in any metro region.  Scroll below for links to our current articles as well as a poster visioning the DLC.  The articles will eventually culminate in a more comprehensive DLC visioning report and/or book.

How You Can Get Involved

Here are several ways you can engage and support the growth of the DMV DLC:

(1) Become a DLC donor with a gift of $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or whatever you can afford.  Donations are 100% tax deductible in the USA. At the contribution page, enter “DLC donor” in the Note box.  All donors get DLC email updates and event invitations, and recognition as a supporter at Learning Life’s website, social media and DemFest. 

(2) Become a DLC member: Membership is $100 per year in 2024 (starting from date of contribution).  Members get (a) DLC email updates and event invitations, (b) entrance to one Democracy Dinner, (c) two tickets to the DMV Democracy Festival (DemFest), and (d) recognition as a DLC member at Learning Life’s website, social media and DemFest.  At the contribution page, enter “DLC member” in the Note box.  Note: Because of the benefits, membership contributions are not tax deductible. 

(3) Sponsor the DLC if you or your organization would like to get greater benefits and support the DLC at a higher level.  Individual sponsorships start at $250, and organizational sponsorships at $1,000.  At the contribution page, enter “DLC sponsor” in the Note box.

(4) Join our “Democracy Learning Community” Linkedin group to connect with others interested in protecting and advancing democracy, and share your related calls to action, publications, events, news, programs, projects to a wider audience.

(5) Fill out our DemFest Partner Survey if you or your organization would like to be involved in the DMV Democracy Festival as a sponsor, vendor, tabler, host (of a panel, discussion, performance, gaming, workshop, etc.), exhibitor, evaluator, or else.

(6) Participate in an in-person Democracy Dinner.  To get on the Dinners invitation list, contact us at with your preferred email address, and either your resume, Linkedin profile page, or personal website to let us know how you are involved in politics or democracy work as a volunteer and/or professional.

Readings on the DLC

America Needs Democracy Learning Communities

Democracy, Education and the Trump Voter

Toward Localizing International Relations

How Business Can Help Strengthen Democracy

Five Reasons to Support Democracy Festivals

The Case for Democracy Markets