Enter to Win an International Prize

Like international affairs?  

Want to help build a more caring world?  

Want a really easy way to enter to win an international prize, worth $96-$118? 

Just join the Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) on Facebook, and tell us you joined!  Here’s how:

  1. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/familydiplomacy  
  2. Click the “Join Group” button
  3. Type below “I joined!” 

That’s it!  To increase your chances of winning, share the link to this post with your family members, and ask them to each take the three steps above.

Learning Life will announce the winner at a special live international event on Sunday, October 24 via Zoom (you can learn more and register for that event here), and if you are the winner, we will contact you via Facebook to ask which of the 4 prizes below you want.  Choose 2 of the 4 prizes, or double of 1: 

  1. $59 for one year of National Geographic — print magazine and digital (lots of articles, photos and videos all accessible via your smart phone, or laptop!)  
  2. $50 toward a language learning service you want to use
  3. $50 donation on your behalf to an international nonprofit of your choice
  4. USA only: $48 worth of tasty snacks from around the world for 3 months from UniversalYums.com

Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative connects families worldwide on Facebook to share, dialogue and learn together with an eye to nurturing a more caring world.  Click here to learn more.  

Sponsor “Democracy & Diplomacy for a More Caring World” Event

On October 24, 2021, 12:00-1:30pm (Washington DC/New York time), Learning Life is holding a special worldwide event, “Democracy & Diplomacy for a More Caring World,” live online via Zoom.  We’re aiming for the event to attract at least 150 participants in metro Washington DC, the USA, and across the world. Interested individuals, businesses and nonprofits are invited to sponsor the event. Sponsorship levels and benefits are laid out in the chart below:

Benefits / Sponsor LevelDiplomat 
Recognition at sponsor level on Learning Life’s website,
social media pages, e-news, and event ticket page*
Recognition at sponsor level during the live event
Custom message in event e-program shared widely online prior to event*1/4 page1/2 pageFull page
Unique positioning as top sponsor**
3-minute audience engagement at live event (if desired)**

*Sponsors will each be recognized by their individual or organizational name, and when space allows, by their preferred title and organization (individual), or tagline (organizations).  Learning Life has 30,000+ followers in metro DC and beyond through its website, monthly e-news, and social media pages (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter).

**Learning Life is offering only one Ambassador-level sponsorship, and that unique position comes with the most prominent sponsor placement in all our event communications, plus the option during the event to speak personally and directly with our live audience in metro Washington DC, and worldwide.

To sponsor the event, contact us at email@learninglife.info to arrange promotion details, then go to our event ticket page to register and pay.

Founder’s Blog: America Needs Democracy Learning Communities

This article, a co-authored publication of Learning Life Founder, Paul Lachelier, and Senior Democracy Strategist, Mike Morrow, was published in The Fulcrum (August 24, 2021), and picked up by other online venues including Gulf Today (August 25), The Marietta Daily Journal (August 25), Salem News (August 25), and The Post Bulletin (August 27).

Cancel culture, immigration reform, Black Lives Matter, congressional gridlock, the Jan. 6 riot: What do these seemingly disparate national phenomena have in common? Democratic dysfunction. Yet when many Americans think of democracy, they think less of themselves than of politicians, less of community and lifestyle than of government and elections. Our narrow concept needs widening, our democracy needs learning and community. There is no better place to start than at the grassroots level by forming democracy learning communities all across America, in urban and rural areas, suburbs and exurbs.

We come to this conclusion from long careers, domestic and foreign. Paul is a political sociologist who has studied and engaged in grassroots citizen activism in the United States for over 30 years. Mike is a former State Department diplomat who worked for 35 years to support democracy abroad in countries ranging from Russia to Iraq to South Sudan. From these different vantage points, we have learned that democracy is fragile and demands wide, constructive citizen engagement. This engagement can produce valuable public goods such as mutual trust, better health and lasting peace. In South Sudan’s long civil war, Mike witnessed first-hand how stalled peace talks between the government and rebels advanced only after youth, women, and community and religious leaders were given a seat at the negotiating table. In Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Paul experienced how active citizens tend to be more informed and confident about their civic power. Research shows such citizen qualities can nurture more responsive government.

Citizens are not born, they are made. The best making is sustained, not episodic. Yet for most Americans, the practice of democracy is at best episodic and narrow: voting every few years, then watching in consternation from afar as paid activists, lobbyists, and elected officials run the show. All Americans are affected by democratic dysfunction, so we need sustained, inclusive ways for citizens to connect, learn and collaborate about democracy.

We can start by learning about human behavior and its interaction with larger forces shaping American life. First, abundant research shows humans tend to favor and gravitate toward people like themselves. Second, this tendency fuels a variety of cognitive biases that make it harder for humans to understand and get along with people unlike them. These include going along with our group to get along, seeking and trusting information that confirms our group’s views, and seeing members of outside groups as more alike and those of our in-group as more diverse. Third, when these human biases face new conditions — daily absorption in electronic media, media algorithms that feed us what we like and believe, and communities more segregated by class and political affiliation — our biases are magnified in ways that aggravate democratic dysfunction.

How can Americans meet these social and structural challenges and strengthen our democracy? One way is to create democracy learning communities. DLCs enable us to tap into two powerful human traits that have helped us survive and thrive as a species: our capacity to learn, and our inclination toward sociability.

The concept of a learning community is most discussed and practiced in higher education, where structured, residential learning communities have been shown to improve student grades and graduation rates. Yet in our complex, interdependent and rapidly changing world, learning communities can and should be cultivated throughout society. This would help people intelligently, collaboratively tackle problems, and fulfill their needs for belonging and purpose.

Democracy learning communities can bring people together across political, class, race and religious divides to learn about their commonalities and differences as well as the complexities, challenges and possibilities of democracy. Further, when organized municipally or regionally, DLCs can bring people together in-person as well as online, on an on-going rather than episodic basis, to nurture greater trust and collaboration. Clearly, bringing people together across lines of difference is not easy, and can spur conflict rather than collaboration. But effective learning communities uphold rules of engagement and foster long-term relationships through regular, curated activities — like networking socials, issue deliberations, and collaboration workshops — that engender learning and cooperation.

Democracy demands informed, skilled and caring citizens. Good citizens are neither born nor made through the status quo of episodic democracy. Democracy can and should be a lifestyle as much as a governance system. Municipal and regional DLCs can cultivate more good citizens and help Americans overcome political dysfunction. There is no better place to start than in your own town, city or region.

Paul Lachelier is the founder of Learning Life, a nonprofit lab devoted to innovating education and citizen engagement. Mike Morrow is a former U.S. diplomat and current senior democracy strategist with Learning Life.

Third 2021 International Family Dialogue Focuses on Work & Economics

On Sunday, August 15, 40+ people from at least 18 countries — including El Salvador, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Italy, Nigeria, Ghana, Burundi, Uganda, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Philippines — joined us for the third of six live international family dialogues via Zoom focused on the question: how do work and economics impact family safety and health worldwide?

The six-dialogues series is part of the Family Diplomacy Initiative, Learning Life’s flagship program devoted to connecting families across borders to share and learn together. The August 15 dialogue started with a brief video about the dialogues, then some context from Learning Life’s founder, Paul Lachelier, then a series of questions participants discussed:

  1. Over, under, and unemployment: Some people work too much, others too little.  How common are these in your country, and how to they affect people’s health?
  2. Economic growth brings better health and longevity, but also more pollution, more processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, etc.  Do you see economic growth improving or worsening family health in your country?  How so?
  3. Gender and work: Women and men often do different work.  How do you see this affecting the health of men, women and families in your country?
  4. Age and work: Are children and the elderly forced or encouraged to work in your country?  Should they be encouraged to work?
  5. Workplace safety: Some jobs are a lot safer than others.  What threats to workplace safety do you see in your community, and/or country?
  6. Slavery/human trafficking: Do you see or hear about it in your community or country?  What are the consequences for family health and safety? 
  7. Work insecurity/instability: When economies decline, many people lose their jobs. Also, some employers prefer not to keep their employees even in good times to maintain a fresh, motivated workforce. Has work insecurity affected the health of yours or other families you know?  How so?

Open dialogue followed, starting with Marvin, a teacher from China, who explained that while living standards have increased greatly overall in China, only a relatively privileged few, like government workers, work 40 hours a week. Many others work 9am to 9pm daily, and employees are given higher-pay incentives to work more. Ana, a university student from Mexico spoke of water and land privatization, and how these are making life more insecure for families. Steve Ault, a professor in the USA, noted that most people around the world do not have a choice of what work they do, other than perhaps whether to work for themselves or someone else. Alisa from Mexico spoke as an immigrant trafficked into the USA about some of the difficulties immigrant families face, especially if they do not have the right to work yet still have a family to support. Saif, a Jordanian working in business in Egypt contrasted traditional slavery where the slave owner gave food and shelter in exchange for bonded labor versus “contemporary slavery” where families are not ensured food and shelter, and have to make a life from the often insufficient wages employers pay, including foreign companies that move to places where they can get cheaper workers. Saif accordingly called for a global minimum wage. Begum, a Ph.D. graduate from Turkey, and Rashmi, a Ph.D. and part-time university teacher in India, both spoke of the oversupply of educated people and the undersupply of jobs. They spoke of being underpaid and overworked for many years despite their higher degrees. She also noted how richer families can in some ways escape the health problems of poorer families because they can pay for better health care in their country or a foreign country.

A number of participants spoke of the impacts of the pandemic. Job, a government worker in the Philippines, spoke of how Filipino families during the pandemic are relying on community pantries that have spread to provide food and other essential goods. Nusrat, a chemical industry worker recently laid off in Bangladesh, noted that unemployment spikes have led to what have been called “suicides of despair.” Rossella from Italy remarked that women, often employed in more casual, part-time and temporary jobs, have been more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, aggravating gender inequalities. Brenda and her sister, university students in Mexico, echoed the gender unequal challenges women face, including having to at once work for an employer and do more work than men at home, and how paid parental leave would help in some ways. Bahira, a professor and expert on families in the USA, noted that women have had to take on more work during the pandemic, including wage work, and caring for children and elders.

Then, the conversation turned to human trafficking. Sridev, a filmmaker in Nepal, discussed various forms of contemporary slavery or bonded labor which ensnare too many Nepalese men and women, including domestic servants and construction workers at home and abroad. Tenille, a graduate student from Trinidad & Tobago noted that some people are abducted without explanation to be turned into slaves, or for their organs to be “harvested” for sale at a high price on a global black market for needed human organs. Alisa from Mexico spoke of her human trafficking experience, and the difficulties it presents in gaining legal employment.

To view the full video-recorded dialogue, click here.

All six family dialogues are free, and are held, in English, on Sundays, 12:00-1:30pm EST (New York time) via Zoom. Each dialogue has a different date and topic as follows:

June 27: Global Trends in Family Life: How are families changing worldwide, and how does this impact family health and security?  Topics might include global patterns and trends in family demographics, parenting, childhood, family life, aspirations and viewpoints, etc.

July 25: Health Care Systems: How do health care systems shape family health and security?  What exists and what’s lacking in local-to-global health care institutions? What are some of the major global health trends, threats, and some of the most promising large-scale solutions? 

August 15: Work & Economics: How do economic forces affect family health and security?  Topics might include work and unemployment, workplace safety, automation, income and wealth inequality, economic migration and remittances, work-life balance, etc.   

September 12: The Environment: How do natural and man-made environmental conditions, local to global, impact family health and security?  Topics might include home and neighborhood crime and safety, community life, green space, housing and segregation, transportation, pollution, climate change, etc.  

October 10: Politics: How do local to global politics influence family health and security?  Topics might include government service provision, leadership, civil society, governmental power inequalities between and within nations, immigration and refugee policy, war, human rights, rule of law, corruption, legal discrimination, etc.

November 14: Education & Leisure: How do education and leisure time activities influence family health and security? Topics might include formal and informal education, leisure patterns and trends, literacy, early childhood education, gender and class inequalities, etc.   

To participate in the dialogues, please complete this pre-dialogues survey. The survey offers more information plus the Zoom link for all the dialogues. Note: Because these are family dialogues, you should participate with one or more members of your family in the same room, whether siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, in-laws or other family members. If family members are not available or willing, please invite one or more friends or housemates. Everyone who plans to attend at least one of the six family dialogues should fill out the pre-survey linked above.