The Center's Democracy Lab

In discussing the “democratic ideal” of education, John Dewey argued that two fundamental traits combine the educational experience and democracy. The aim of education, he argued, is to “generate greater reliance upon the recognition of mutual interests” and “continuous readjustment through meeting new situations.” Building from this observation, the Democracy Lab combines Dewey's insights into education and democracy with recent trends in design-thinking pedagogy. The course focuses on generating opportunities for students to build a mutual interest based on their differences and provide a context for them to deploy this mutual interest toward a solving a specific problem.

To this end, the Democracy Lab will explore a key topic of contemporary democracy each semester. It will aim to provide a hands-on, design-thinking, experimental space where students elaborate a problem and devise a potential a solution around one of the major challenges confronting our contemporary democracies. Such topics may include but are not limited to: global citizenship, democracy with billionnaires, democracy in post-war zones. The course provides a proactive environment where professors help students identify challenges within our current democratic societies  and cultivate their skills to define these challenges as problems that may be treated.

D.Lab Fall 2021

The Fall 2021 Democracy Lab’s topic was deradicalization. Radicalization and polarization have come to define social action and mobilization across Europe, Asia and the Americas and beyond. This course sought to understand how to achieve social and political change without resorting to civilian and state violence by examining the actors, networks, and wider social contexts driving radicalization, particularly among young people in urban and peri-urban areas. This Lab session explored conceptual and theoretical tools presently available for understanding the phenomenon of radicalization, before the students developed prototypes for how to de-escalate political, individual and collective violence. Students produced an array of prototypes for a final presentation, excerpts of which may be seen below.

A group of D.Lab students were invited to participate in the Tocqueville Challenge. You can read more about the Challenge and the students’ project on our highlights page.