DMV DEMOCRACY LEARNING COMMUNITY

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 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.  Learning Life believes that overcoming these challenges requires, among other things, bringing democracy closer to people through activities that connect, inform, entertain, and inspire collaborations — from democracy speed networking, skills workshops and collaboration conferences, to democracy dinners, markets and festivals.

Accordingly, and in response to growing threats to democracy in the USA and abroad, in June 2019, Learning Life launched its Democracy Dinners to bring together democracy (broadly defined) professionals, elected officials, activists and academics 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.  The Dinners help Learning Life harness our growing participant network to build a wider Democracy Learning Community (DLC). The DLC is an association of DMV individuals and organizations working to make democracy more fun and inclusive by developing social events, products, services and spaces that entertain and nurture learning, networking, collaboration and wider, deeper citizen participation.

Beyond the Democracy Dinners every other month, here is what we are working on to build the DMV DLC:

(1) A visioning document to help people conceptualize how a DLC can reshape varied aspects of metropolitan life, from family and school, to work, leisure and media, drawing on many models from the US and abroad.  We have been working on this document gradually since 2022, and will be publishing articles in 2023 and 2024, and the full plan in late 2024 or in 2025.

(2) A DMV Democracy Festival (DemFest), with theatrical productions, digital and analog game rooms, panel discussions, dialogues and debates, poster presentations, roaming costumed actors, a democracy market, and more for adults, families and kids.  We think this festival should become a replicable, financially sustainable, international model for how to make democracy fun for everyone, but especially families and youth.  The earliest DemFest will take place is fall 2024.  We are currently gathering stakeholders — artists, tablers, gamers, hosts, vendors, sponsors and others — interested in supporting, taking part or leading a component of the festival.  Take our festival partner survey to indicate how you or your organization would like to be involved.

(3) A Security Learning Community that brings together diverse metro DC high school, college and graduate students as well as junior to senior professionals interested in security issues to at once help (a) them 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 a weapons proliferation simulation for high school students.  More about this new DLC initiative to come.

How You Can Get Involved

Here are other 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 recognition as a DLC supporter at Learning Life’s website, social media and at DemFest. 

(2) Become a DLC member: Membership is $100 per year in 2024 (starting from date of contribution).  Members get (a) entrance to one Democracy Dinner, (2) two tickets to the DMV Democracy Festival (DemFest), and (c) recognition as a DLC member at Learning Life’s website, social media and at 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 email@learninglife.info 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