Resource Guide for Democracy

AmericaSpeaks facilitates “21st century town meetings,” pictured above, combining face-to-face interaction with communication technologies to allow citizen groups of 500-5000 to develop shared agreements for future action. In July, AmericaSpeaks gathered over 4,000 New Yorkers to help shape the redevelopment of lower Manhattan and the creation of a permanent memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks., 202/299-0570.

From the Four Directions provides coaching, networking, and resources for citizen leaders to start conversation circles and connects local circles into a global force for change., 801/377-2996

Search for Common Ground works for conflict resolution in 12 countries through methods such as mediation, facilitation, and radio soap opera and TV production., 202/265-4300

The Dialogue to Action Initiative is a web-based resource center for organizers, researchers, and facilitators of intergroup dialogue., 802/254-7341

The Study Circles Resource Center helps people to engage in dialogue and problem solving on critical social and political issues using study circle programs. The SCRC works with communities to improve the process for organizing large-scale community dialogue that leads to action and change., 860/928-2616

Accurate Democracy, an e-book, offers explanations of various democratic voting methods for elections and meetings, a glossary of electoral concepts, and an educational computer simulation game.

The Co-Intelligence Institute makes available innovative practices, ideas, experiments, organizations and references for building wiser democracies. Many of the resources presented here were found on its Innovations in Democracy web page.

The Democracy Collaborative sponsors programs to strengthen democracy and community, through teach-ins, work with citizen groups, and training teachers., 301/405-9266

The Loka Institute works to make science and technology more responsive to social and environmental concerns by expanding opportunities for public-interest group, everyday citizen, and worker involvement in science and technology decision-making., 301/585-9398

transform institutions

The Center for Voting and Democracy offers an online library promoting instant runoff voting and forms of proportional representation; provides reports on all 50 states and information on pending legislation; and operates a full election consulting service to help groups select and implement electoral systems and technology for their goals., 301/270-4616

Healthy Democracy promotes structural reforms including the Citizens Initiative Review and the Citizen Election Forum methods, clean elections, term limits, proportional representation, instant runoff voting, a unicameral legislature, and empowered deliberative democracies. Web- site also provides a link to the Jefferson Center, responsible for developing the citizen jury process.

The International Simultaneous Policy Organization proposes a range of legislative measures to be implemented by all nations simultaneously to regain control of global financial markets and transnational corporations.

The National Civic League, a 107-year-old non-profit, non-partisan organization, provides technical assistance, training, publishing, research, and the All-America City Awards, toward strengthening communities., 303/571-4343

The Center for Constitutional Rights, founded to defend civil rights activists in the Jim Crow South, is a legal and educational organization that defends and advances constitutional rights. Projects include litigation against supermax prisons, defense of immigrant rights, and fighting post-September 11 erosion of civil liberties., 212/614-6464

expand civic literacy

Civic Practices Network exchanges “best practice” guides and provides practical tools for public problem solving—including manuals, a civic dictionary, and sample course syllabi. Website map feature allows user to search for stories, case studies, and essays by geographic region., 617/736-4890

Campaign Finance Reform, a section on the Public Agenda Online website, provides facts, public opinion data, policy news updates, competing perspectives, and comprehensive resource lists on the role of money in US elections.

Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action performs research on state-level US democracy; builds coalitions between activists, advocates, and scholars; and tracks legislative developments and democratic reform efforts. Website offers free access to Demos publications, bi-weekly e-mail issue briefings, and an extensive links page of pro-democracy organizations in every state., 212/633-1405

Project Vote Smart provides information on over 13,000 elected offices and candidates locally and nationally. Offers candidates' background information, issue positions, voting records, campaign finances, and performance evaluations by various special interest groups; a toll-free Voter's Research Hotline; and a Young Voters Program that allows voters to instantly compare candidates' positions., 888/868-3762

reclaim the media

FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, is a national media watch group that offers well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship., 212/633-6700

The Pew Center for Civic Journalism helps print and broadcast news organizations reconnect to their communities and engage citizens in problem-solving dialogue and shares the results through outreach programs., 202/331-3200

become an activist, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, conducts grassroots campaigns on voter registration and education, election reform, and city council redistricting, and promotes ballot initiatives to empower low– and moderate–income families. Contact David Swanson at 202-547-2500 for information about ACORN organizing in your city or state.

MoveOnand Progressive Portal are large nationwide networks of on-line activists providing busy citizens with information and tools for democratic participation. www.progressiveportal.organd

read all about it

Bridging the Class Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing, by Linda Stout, with an introduction by Howard Zinn, is a moving personal story that shows how to make a movement truly inclusive. Beacon Press, 1997

Beyond Left and Right, Breaking the Political Stalemate, by A. Lawrence Chickering, is an attempt to find common ground between liberals and conservatives. Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1993

Building A Win-Win World, by Hazel Henderson, calls for a world founded on cooperation, not domination. Berrett-Koehler, 1997

By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy Through Deliberative Elections, by John Gastil, tackles two important issues—increasing political participation and restoring trust in government—that are critical to the future of American democracy. University of California Press, 2000

The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future, edited by Peggy Holman and Tom Devane, details group/organizational practices that can empower our public life. Berrett-Koehler, 1999

Citizens as Partners: OECD Handbook on Information Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-Making, by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, is a practical guide for informing and engaging citizens in policy making. OECD, 2001

Collaborative Leadership: How Citizens and Civic Leaders Can Make a Difference, by David Chrislip and Carl Larson, discusses using collaboration to generate civic will to solve tough community problems. Jossey-Bass, 1994

Creating a World that Works for All, by Sharif Abdullah, presents a possible solution to the inequalities in the world. He outlines three simple tests—for “enoughness,” exchangeability, and common benefit—to guide people as they transform themselves and the world. Berrett-Koehler Publications, 1999

Creating Community Anywhere, by Carolyn Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen, presents tools for creating community within the many spaces we occupy. Perigee, 1993

Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History & Strategies, edited by Dean Ritz and produced by the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD,, calls citizens to take back power from corporations. The Apex Press, 2001

Democracy at Risk, Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street, by Jeff Gates, is a manifesto for spreading wealth and creating a truly democratic society. Perseus Publishing, 2001

The Democracy Reader, by Sondra Myers, is a comprehensive tool for understanding democracy and the central role that citizens play in making democracy work. International Debate Education Association, 2002

Doing Democracy, The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, by Bill Moyer with JoAnn MacAllister, Mary Lou Finley and Steven Soifer, shows how to build powerful change movements that uphold values like honesty, democracy, fairness, compassion, and protection of the environment. New Society Publishers, 2001

The E-Democracy E-Book: Democracy is Online, by Steven Clift, discusses the many ways telecommunications technology affects—or could affect—democracy.

Governing is an online monthly magazine that, among other topics related to democracy, includes a discussion regarding consensus councils that bring together the full diversity of stakeholders around a contentious issue to agree on recommendations to policy-makers.

Manufacturing Consent, The Political Economy of the Mass Media, by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, shows how the news media defend the economic, social, and political agendas of privileged groups. Pantheon Books, 2002

The Quickening of America, by Frances Moore Lappe and Paul DuBois, discusses how millions of Americans are learning “the arts of democracy,” redefining self-interest, and getting creative in their democratic citizenship. Jossey-Bass, 1994

Recreating Democracy, by Lloyd Wells and Larry Lemmel, provides practical guidelines for citizens to create contexts for political conversation and action. Center for Consensual Democracy, 1998

Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work, by Henry Milner, examines the civil societies of various cultures to compare the effectiveness of their democratic institutions. Milner posits that the level of a population's political comprehension is the single best predictor of its level of political participation. University Press of New England, 2002

A Time for Choices: Deep Dialogues for Deep Democracy, by Michael Toms, engages a wide range of leading thinkers in an effort to reinvigorate democracy's core values of “dialogue and dissent” in post-September 11 America. Includes interviews with Paul Hawken, Susan Griffin, Noam Chomsky, Joanna Macy, Vicki Robin, Anita Roddick, Thomas Moore and others. New Society Publishers, 2002

Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies of Law and Order, by Howard Zinn, lays out a case for civil disobedience. South End Press, 2002

No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.