The Future of Democracy

Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 18% of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right.  The lack of trust extends to democracy as well as government: another study finds that one-quarter of millennials say that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant.” With the rise of authoritarian populist leaders around the world – including in the United States— and the weakening of democratic norms in a hyper-partisan political culture in which every day is Election Day, we must ask how vulnerable our democracy is to break down. Our Madisonian system of checks and balances has endured but are our institutions strong enough to resist the slide from demagoguery into dictatorship? And, perhaps more important, what can we do in the era of new technology to redesign what President Tyler in 1840 called “the complex, but at the same time beautiful, machinery of our system of government.” Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, in his canonical Political Man, defined democracy as “a system of elections.” But, it is clear that if we want democracy to thrive, we can do better – we must do better – and reimagine what active citizenship and stronger democracy could mean for the 21st century.

Through public lectures, research workshops, projects, and publications, the aim of this working group is to foster rigorous, interdisciplinary research on the study of Democracy and the impact of technology on its evolution.

The Future of Democracy will kick off in September 2018 with a year-long series of lectures in partnership with the GovLab at NYU.

September 20, 2018 | 6-8PM | Government By The People, With the People: How is Transforming, Four Years After the Sunflower Occupy Movement (Ft. Audrey Tang & Beth Simone Noveck)

September 26, 2018 | 12-2PM | Collective Intelligence and Democracy (Ft. Geoff Mulgan)

October 8, 2018 | 6-8PM | The Future of Governments, from Data to A.I. (Ft. Ceasar A. Hildago & Jose L. Marti)

November 2, 2018, 6-8 PM | Voter Turnout and the 2018 Midterm Elections (Ft. David Stasavage, Cristina Beltran, Michael Hout, Kimberly Johnson, & Jonathan Nagler)

November 16, 2018, 6-8PM | Understanding the Outcome of the Midterm Elections (Ft. David Stasavage, Patrick Egan, Christina Greer, Ashley Koning, & Jeff Manza)

February 25, 2019, 6-8PM | Palaces for the People (Ft. Eric Klinenberg & Beth Simone Noveck)

April 10, 2019, 6-8PM | Politics With the People (Ft. Michael A. Neblo, Kevin M. Esterling, David M. J. Lazer, & Beth Simone Noveck)

September 16, 2019, 6-8PM | Discussion | State Capacity: The Missing Ingredient in Economic Development (Ft. Reuben Abraham)

May 13, 2020, 5-6 PM | Continuity of Congress | Virtual Panel Discussion (Ft. Dr. Brian Baird, Marci Harris, Lorelei Kelly, Daniel Schuman, & Beth Simone Noveck)

May 19, 2020, 5-6 PM | Why We Need Direct Digital Democracy Today (Ft. Dr. Roslyn Fuller & Beth Simone Noveck)

August 20, 2020, 5-6 PM | Protecting Democracy 2021 (Ft. Ian Bassin & Beth Simone Noveck)

October 1, 2020, 5-6 pM | The McKinseyfication of the State (Ft. Ian McDougall & Beth Simone Noveck)

October 15, 2020, 5-6 PM | Mini-Publics: The Future of Democracy or Democracy Theater? Reviewing the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review (Ft. Jonathan E. Collins and John Gastil) 

October 29, 2020, 5-6 PM | Looking Ahead: Enhanced Democracy by 2030 Through Digital Innovation (Ft.Lee Ranie)

Jan 28, 2021 | Building Civic Power (Ft. Hollie Russon Gilman and Maurice “Moe” Mitchell) RSVP link:

  • Reforming democracy by focusing on democratic action, community engagement, citizen empowerment — civic power.

Feb 9, 2021 | Moving Congress into the 21st century (Ft. Kevin Kosar) RSVP link:

  • Book Talk: Congress Overwhelmed: The Decline in Congressional Capacity and Prospects for Reform

March 2, 2021 | Local Voices Network (Ft. Deb Roy) RSVP Link:

  • Fostering constructive public conversations across political and cultural divides.

March 31, 2021 | We the Possibility: Harnessing Public Entrepreneurship to Solve Our Most Urgent Problems (Ft. Mitchell Weiss) RSVP Link:

  • We’ve come to accept the notion that government cannot innovate. Not so, says Mitchell Weiss, professor at Harvard Business School, who will talk about what it means to create bold public management and imaginative leadership.

July 22, 2021 | What Americans Want from Reform (Ft. Paul C. Light and Karlyn Bowman). Link to recording:

The series will explore questions such as:

Is democracy in jeopardy? Is it dying or declining? Is populism a serious threat? And what is the role of global corporations in advancing or undermining democracy?

Is democracy still compatible with forging an equitable, sustainable and just society?

What could replace democracy as we know it? Is democracy at the national level still what matters or what are the prospects for global, transnational, and local democracy?

What are the hallmarks of a democracy in the age of the Internet, robots, and artificial intelligence? Is there more to democracy than voting? What will be the impact of the technologies of collective intelligence and artificial intelligence?

What are the prospects for greater participation and engagement in democratic life? What kind of skills do we need to become active citizens? And do we have to tackle inequality in order to repair our democracy?

How do we reinvent democratic theory for the digital age? And what kind of democratic culture is needed to foster adaptations?

If you are interested in learning more about this group please contact IPK’s Associate Director, Jessica Coffey, at


For more video of past events in this series, check out the IPK’s YouTube page.

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