1. An underlying conviction grounds the Democracy Learning Lab program:
The roots of our democracy are not in our institutions and systems. They are in our bodies, our hearts, and our minds as core dispositions for living our lives. It is from there that we as citizens of our democracy generate, shape, sustain, transform, and transmit its institutions and systems…which, in turn, shape us.
2. The experiential learning objectives in the structured dynamic of the Learning Lab will be four-fold:
- how to become better and more genuine in our democratic practice;
- to rethink what democracy means as a way of living, seeing, thinking, and relating;
- to gain understanding of what goes into democratically managing a community project;
- to identify how to integrate this learning into our personal and collective lives beyond the Lab.
Learning will be primarily experiential, but it will also involve study of and conversations with accomplished people in the field of democracy and other related areas.
3. Four interrelated learning paths
In terms of their experiential learning, Lab Fellows will pursue their learning objectives by travelling four interrelated learning paths throughout their time in the Learning Lab:
- They will engage with each other from day-one in making their shared life work well. It will be face-to-face learning of democratic practice in real time. In the process they will be learning how they can develop the motivation to want to hear and understand each other, and to care for each other in spite of all their differences.
- To a great extent a Democracy Learning Lab will be in the collective hands of the Fellows. It will be a trial-and-error experience in democratic management. What they make of this challenge and opportunity will be within the parameters set by the host organization(s) and the particular design of the Learning Lab they are participating in. That said, the Fellows will gradually take on more and more responsibility for managing the Lab collectively and persistent reflecting on what is working, not working, and the whys.
- The Fellows will also be continuously thinking together about a larger problem. Drawing on their experiences in their Lab community, they will reflect as well as they can as to how everyday people in general can learn to deal creatively and compassionately with shared problems. Democratic organizing.
- A fourth path goes to an even higher level: to reflect together on how diverse groups like themselves can do this kind of learning on a large scale. In other words, they will be imagining and speculating as to how a transformative civic education system could evolve. Democratic strategizing.
One last thought. The first Democratic Learning Labs will be a beginning for everyday people to develop ways for developing the skills and dispositions they need for embodying a deep democratic practice. The GDProject will be reaching out continuously to ally with other organizations that align with our mission and objectives. The intent here is for this to take us to paths for expanding the Democracy Learning Lab program and developing additional ones.