THE DEMOCRACY DINNERS
Click here to learn more about the broader project to develop a regional democracy learning community in metro Washington DC.
Learning Life is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit lab devoted to innovating education, democracy and diplomacy by spreading learning in everyday life beyond school walls. In accordance with this mission, our Democracy Dinners bring together democracy (broadly defined) professionals, elected officials, activists and academics in metro DC to nurture deeper conversation about the challenges and possibilities for democracy at local to global levels in light of threats to democracy in the USA and abroad. The Dinners are the first step in a longer-term effort to develop a democracy learning community in the metro Washington DC region. This page explains our Democracy Dinners in fuller detail.
A virtual meeting of metro DC activists, academics, professionals, and elected officials who work in varied democracy domains: voting rights, voter mobilization, campaign finance reform, economic democracy, empowering the marginalized, government transparency and accountability, democratization, citizen diplomacy, citizen education, civic engagement, dialogue and deliberation, criminal justice, human rights, civil liberties, etc. As of May 2022, Learning Life holds one two-hour Democracy Dinner every three months. Our Dinners have two formats: (1) smaller group discussions of 8-15 participants who introduce themselves, get to know more about each other’s work, then discuss the challenges and possibilities for democracy at local to global levels, and (2) a panel discussion engaging 16-30 participants, with 2-4 speakers who present on a democracy topic, followed by questions and discussion. The latter format welcomes democracy authors to present on their recent articles or books. To be considered, please join our Democracy & Diplomacy Community, then email us at email@example.com with your resume, article or book you’d like to present, and suggestions of 1-3 other authors who might present with you on the same topic/theme.
Why Democracy Dinners?
In metro DC, there are a lot of people who work on democracy issues at local to global levels, but they often labor in occupational/specialty silos. Democracy Dinners are intentionally smaller gatherings, part of our growing Democracy & Diplomacy Community, to nurture sustained, deeper, more participatory conversations than conventional, fleeting, networking and speaking events typically allow between democracy sector folks who might not otherwise meet given their specialty silos. In so doing, the aim is to expand our respective networks, enrich our understanding of democracy’s challenges and possibilities, and facilitate the development of a democracy learning community in metro DC.
How exactly do the Democracy Dinners work?
Here, more precisely, are the Democracy Dinner steps:
- Learning Life emails its Democracy Dinners invitation list (more below on how people get on the list) with proposed Dinner dates usually about 2-3 weeks prior. List members who would like to participate indicate those dates they can make via a Doodle poll.
- Learning Life staff select the Dinner participants, and notify the invitees via email of the date, time, Zoom link, agenda, and their fellow Dinner participants, including their names and Linkedin profiles or websites. We prioritize new participants, but returning participants are always welcome. As best we can, we also aim for diversity by democracy specialty/experience, gender and race.
- On the dinner date, participants meet via Zoom at the appointed time, usually 6 to 8pm on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. See above under “What is a Democracy Dinner” for the two types of Dinners we hold. Participants are welcome to eat dinner during the conversation if they wish. The Dinners are not usually audio or video recorded, though we do take screenshots of the participants to share via social media.
- Promptly following the Dinners, Learning Life shares Zoom chat notes from the meeting and the participants’ emails (those who do not wish to share their emails excepted) to encourage follow-up, and asks all participants to fill out a brief feedback survey.
Who moderates the Dinners?
The Democracy Dinners are moderated by a Learning Life’s Founder & Director, Paul Lachelier, or another democracy specialist. Learn more about Paul here.
Any participation guidelines I should know about?
Avoid cancelling your participation unless it’s an emergency, and please show up on time. Because our Dinners are smaller gatherings, your punctual, complete attendance and active participation are vital.
Don’t disrespect your fellow Dinner guests. The Democracy Dinners are intended to be civil and stimulating learning experiences, not a platform for pushing a viewpoint or book, or for denigrating other views.
How do people get on the Democracy Dinners invitation list?
Learning Life staff search the internet for metro DC organizations that work on democracy issues, broadly defined. We then add typically mid to senior level folks from these organizations to the invitation list. Anyone who gets Dinner invitations is always free and able to get off the list by simply replying and requesting to be removed.
Anyone who wishes to be added to the list should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, email address, and either their resume, Linkedin profile page, or personal website. We do not guarantee that everyone will get on the list, but if a person clearly lives in metro DC and appears to work or have experience in the democracy field, they will be added to the invitation list.
Is there a way to connect between the Dinners?
Yes. We have a “DMV Democracy Learning Community” Linkedin group that allows anyone committed to protecting and advancing democracy to share their related calls to action or collaboration, publications, events, news, programs, and projects. You do not have to reside in metro DC to join the Linkedin group, though democracy professionals and advocates in metro DC are particularly encouraged to join. You can join the group here.
In addition, if you would like to present at a Democracy Dinner, and be invited to special Democracy or Diplomacy Dessert events in-person, you can join our Democracy & Diplomacy Community.