HAMPTON, Va. (August 7, 2019) – Where should someone go to learn about issues involving democracy in 38 countries?
Dayton, Ohio, of course.
Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Dean and Assistant Vice President for Marketing/Media B. DàVida Plummer was invited to attend the Kettering Foundation’s Deliberative Democracy Institute from July 8 to 12 in Dayton.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Plummer said. “It gives you an opportunity to hear about the hot-button issues around the world, and it forces you to evaluate what you consider to be an issue in the framework of democracy.”
DDI, according to the foundation’s website, kettering.org, is “a learning exchange in which people from diverse nations explore a range of ideas that can improve public life at the community level and beyond by encouraging citizen participation and advancing knowledge of democratic practices.”
There were 38 countries represented at this summer’s institute, including Brazil, France, Georgia, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa, Tunisia and the United States.
Recent DDI participants also have come from Argentina, Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Russia, Thailand and Zimbabwe, among many others, the foundation said.
“You glean perspective on the pressing issues in different cultures,” Plummer said. “It’s sobering.”
Scholars, journalists, community leaders, civil society practitioners and others gather at the institute in Dayton each summer. According to the foundation website, they all have one thing in common: “a desire to understand and develop ways for ordinary people to have a greater role in shaping their own futures.”
During the weeklong series of exchanges, participants describe challenges citizens face in solving common public problems and what they have learned.
“As stark as you think are the key needs where you are, the desires for democracy are the same elsewhere,” Plummer said.
DDI attendees explore “the idea of a deliberative public,” as well as new ways for organizing political work in communities. Kettering also shares insights from its research.
“They taught us to look at the framework of an issue, the nuances, pros and cons, and deliberate tactics to make a plan of action to effect positive change,” Plummer said.
One issue Plummer is exploring is serving the underserved news deserts in the communities around Hampton University.
DDI further fueled her interest.
“It motivates you to make an impact in your own space,” Plummer said.
Not all attendees return to the institute a second time to share the work they have done over the previous year.
“I certainly hope so,” she said.