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Seeking Nominations for the Penn State Democracy Medal

Each year, the Penn State Democracy Institute is giving a medal and $5,000 award for exceptional innovations that advance the design and practice of democracy. The medal celebrates and helps to publicize the best work being done to advance democracy in the United States or around the globe. The Institute gives medals in even-numbered years to recognize practical innovations, such as new institutions, laws, technologies, or movements that advance democracy. In odd-numbered years, the awards celebrate advances in democratic theory that provide richer philosophical or empirical conceptions of democracy.

Nov 11, 2013

 

The first medal will be given in 2014 for the best innovation in the practice of democracy. Nominations will be accepted through December 10, 2013, and the awardee will be announced in the spring of 2014. The winner will give a talk at Penn State in September, 2014, when they also receive their medal and $5,000 award. Between the spring announcement of the winner and the on-campus event in the fall, the Institute will provide the recipient with editorial assistance toward completing a short (20-25 page) essay describing the innovation for a general audience. The Institute will publish the essay electronically, possibly in collaboration with an independent press, and make it available to the general public at a very low price (e.g., $1-2), along with a similarly-affordable audio version. These print and audio distillations of the innovation are designed to aid its diffusion.

Award Review Process

All nomination letters must be emailed by December 10, 2013 to democracyinst@psu.edu. Initial nomination letters are simply that, a one-to-two page letter that describes how the nominee’s work meets the criteria for this award and what distinguishes it from other work on democracy. Both self-nominations and nominations of others are welcomed. In either case, email, phone, and postal contact information for the nominee must be included.

By January, 2014, a panel composed of Penn State faculty and independent reviewers will screen those initial nominations and select a subset of nominees who will be notified that they have advanced to a second round. By the end of February, those in the second round will be required to provide further documentation, which includes the following: biographical sketch of the individual or organization nominated (max. 2 pages); two letters of support from persons familiar with their work, particularly those who work independently from the nominee; a basic description of the innovation and its efficacy, with a maximum length of 30 pages of printed materials and/or 30 minutes of audio/video materials; and a one-page description of who would come to Penn State to receive award and who would draft the essay describing the innovation. The review panel will then scrutinize the more detailed applications and select an awardee by the end of April.

Review Criteria

The democratic innovation selected will score highest on these features:

  1. Novelty. The innovation is precisely that—a genuinely new way of thinking about democracy or practicing it. It will likely build on or draw on past ideas and practices, but its novelty must be obvious.
  2. Systemic change. The idea, theory, or practical reform should be able to change systematically how we think about and practice democracy. Ideas should be of the highest clarity and quality, empirical studies should be rigorous and grounded in evidence, and practical reforms must have proof of their effectiveness. The change the innovation brings about should be systematic, in that it can alter the larger functioning of a democratic system over a long time frame.
  3. Potential for Diffusion. The idea or reform should have general applicability across many different scales and cultural contexts. In other words, it should be relevant to people who aspire to democracy in many parts of the world and/or in many different social or political settings.
  4. Democratic Quality. The spirit of this innovation must be nonpartisan and advance the most essential qualities of democracy, such as broad social inclusion, deliberativeness, political equality, and effective self-governance. In practical terms, the nominees themselves may be partisan but their innovation should have nonpartisan or trans-partisan value.
  5. Recency. The award is intended to recognize recent accomplishments, which have occurred during the previous five years. The roots of an innovation could run deeper, but within the past five years, there must have been significant advances in the idea or practical reform.

When choosing among otherwise equally qualified submissions, the review panel will also consider two practical questions. Who would give the lecture on campus and meet with the PSU community? Who would write the essay about the innovation? Neither needs to be the nominee, nor the nominator.

Individuals or organizations who have worked closely with the Institute’s director (Dr. John Gastil) or associate director (Dr. Mark Major) in the past five years are not eligible. For the first five years of the award, Penn State alums or employees are also ineligible.

Questions and Further Information

Any questions or requests for more information should be sent to democracyinst@psu.edu.

The Pennsylvania State University Democracy Institute (http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu) promotes rigorous scholarship and practical innovations to advance the democratic process in the United States and abroad. The Institute pursues this mission , in part, through supporting the work of the Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD) and the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR).  The CDD studies and advances public deliberation, whereas CAPR attends to the relationship between the public’s priorities and the actions of elected bodies. Whereas each center focuses on the questions most salient to its mission, the Institute tends to larger issues and connections between those questions. The Institute examines the interplay of deliberative, electoral, and institutional dynamics. It recognizes that effective deliberation among citizens has the potential to reshape both the character of public opinion and the dynamics of electoral politics, particularly in states and local communities. Likewise, political agendas and institutional processes can shape the ways people frame and discuss issues. In practical terms. The main activities of the institute include giving a major annual award for democratic innovation, bringing speakers to campus, sponsoring faculty roundtables and workshops, and financially supporting for student research.

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Former White House Adviser to Deliver Talk on Budget Crisis on Dec. 3

Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities and former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, will speak as part of the Penn State Democracy Institute’s lecture series. The talk titled “Making Sense of the Budget Crisis” will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 4:00 p.m. in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, on Penn State’s University Park campus. The University Libraries will co-sponsor the event.

Nov 11, 2013

Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities and former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, will speak as part of the Penn State Democracy Institute’s lecture series. The talk titled “Making Sense of the Budget Crisis” will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 4:00 p.m. in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, on Penn State’s University Park campus. The University Libraries will co-sponsor the event.

 

Bernstein will speak on the 2013 budget and deficit ceiling crises, as well as those that loom on the horizon for 2014. Bernstein will offer an analysis that draws on his experience as economic adviser and policy analyst in the Obama administration. An extended question-and-answer session will follow the talk.

Bernstein served as Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team from 2009-2011. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC.

Bernstein’s areas of expertise include federal and state economic and fiscal policies, income inequality and mobility, trends in employment and earnings, international comparisons, and the analysis of financial and housing markets.

Based in the College of the Liberal Arts, the Penn State Democracy Institute brings together the top faculty and graduate students in several disciplines to develop knowledge and training that will provide legislators, policymakers, voters, and the public with better ways to improve debate, discussions, and governing in our country. Through teaching, creative research projects, and public programs, the Democracy Institute will explore better routes to deciding controversial issues, like healthcare and environmental regulation, and address how government can become more responsive to the people.

 

For more information on the Democracy Institute, go to: http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu/.

Anne Norton to speak on Democracy in Islam and the West

Anne Norton, professor of political science and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak “On the Muslim Question” as part of the Penn State Democracy Institute’s lecture series. The talk will be held Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in 111 Wartik Building, on Penn State’s University Park campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Oct 23, 2013

Norton will discuss the compatibility between democracy, the West, and Islam, as well as challenge Islamophobia by focusing on the values of Western civilization, similar to the topic of her latest book “On the Muslim Question.” Her other books include Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire; 95 Theses on Politics, Culture, and Method; and Republic of Signs. Based in the College of the Liberal Arts, the Penn State Democracy Institute brings together the top faculty and graduate students in several disciplines to develop knowledge and training that will provide legislators, policymakers, voters, and the public with better ways to improve debate, discussions, and governing in our country. Through teaching, creative research projects, and public programs, the Democracy Institute will explore better routes to deciding controversial issues, like healthcare and environmental regulation, and address how government can become more responsive to the people. For more information on the Democracy Institute, go to http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu/

The Democracy Institute Funds Two Graduate Research Projects

Jun 11, 2013

 

The Penn State Democracy Institute is supporting two research projects by graduate students Matt Wilson and Mike Bergmaier, thanks to generous support from the alumni and friends of the College of the Liberal Arts.
Matt Wilson, who is pursuing a PhD in Political Science, studies how nations experience major transitions in their political systems. Funding from the Democracy Institute will allow him to research and analyze decisions of Mexico’s prominent political party, known as the Partido Revolutionario Institutional (PRI), that led to its eventual defeat after holding power from 1929 to 2000. Matt’s theory is that leaders create and change political institutions to stay in office, and their success depends on specific constraints and the type of opposition they face.

In the Communication Arts and Sciences Department, PhD candidate Mike Bergmaier will study a key part of civic education in American democracy. He is investigating new formats for high school and college debates that are more accessible, rather than the current specialized formats highlighted with rapid-fire delivery and dense theoretical arguments.  Specifically, Mike will explore the effectiveness of participants negotiating ground rules prior to each debate, rather than imposing a rigid format or an anything-goes approach. Funding from the Democracy Institute will enable the University to host a pilot debate tournament with student competitors to test this new approach to debate competitions.
The Penn State Democracy Institute is a collaborative partnership of research, teaching, and outreach between The Center for American Political Responsiveness and The Center for Democratic Deliberation. Go to: http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu

 

 

CAPR Holds Second Annual CAPR Conference

Feb 26, 2013

CAPR Holds Second Annual CAPR Conference

Back Row: Francisco Pedraza (Texas A&M), David Lowery and Suzanna Linn (PSU) Front Row: Jonathan Nagler (NYU), Meredith Sadin (Princeton and Analyst Institute), Robert Erikson (Columbia) and Ruy Teixeira (Center for American Progress)

"It's the economy, stupid." Or, is it?

During CAPR's second annual conference, distinguished researchers from across the country took a closer look at the conference topic The Economy and Elections: Responsiveness in the Context of Growing Demographic Diversity. The 2012 election was unique in that a sitting President won reelection despite a struggling economy. And this was, in part, due to the changing demographics of the electorate where groups such as racial minorities and unmarried women are becoming increasingly important.

The intimate day-long conference gave Penn State students and faculty, as well as other Pennsylvania university students, the opportunity to interact in a smaller setting with a diverse set of accomplished political scientists that work in academia, campaigns and non-profits.

Scholars shared empirical research regarding the differenct political preferences and behaviors of the groups that make up the new American electorate and how this affected the 2012 election. As well, they addressed the way in which campaigns are using increasingly sophisticated polling and modeling to target these groups. The conference concluded with a rousing round table discussion of election 2016, Nate Silvers' 2012 election predictions, and the ways in which our two-party system can better represent a diverse electorate.

Inaugural Democracy Institute Lecture Now Available Online

Jan 22, 2013

On Tuesday, January 15, Professor Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota delivered the inaugural lecture for the Penn State Democracy Institute. His lecture, "The Paradox of Polling: An Aid to Democratic Responsiveness or a Tool for Manipulation?", explored the shift toward private presidential polling in the second half of the twentieth century and elaborated on the ways in which polling--both public and private--can be utilized in both democracy-enhancing and potentially manipulative ways.

Dr. Jacobs' talk was recorded by local independent television and is available online. View the entire lecture HERE.

Democracy Institute Professor In the News: John Gastil on Avoiding Impulsive Political Decisions on Guns and Fiscal Cliff

Dec 20, 2012

"Polls show that Americans now favor gun control by a 10- to 20-point margin. By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans also support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. If government is about political responsiveness..."


Read more here.

CAPR Professor in the News: Michael Berkman on Accuweather on The Weather's Impact on This Election

Nov 07, 2012

Take a look at this video on Accuweather's web site, which features CAPR professor Dr. Michael Berkman discussing the weather's effect on the 2012 election.

CAPR Professor in the News: Pete Hatemi in the Economist on the Genetics of Politics

Oct 16, 2012

"The suggestion of Dr Hatemi and Dr McDermott is that political action is the collective expression of some pretty primal biological motives: those of survival and procreation."

Read more here.

CAPR Professor in the News: Michael Berkman on Weather's Role at the Polls

Oct 11, 2012

"More factors into the result of an election than just politics, said Dr. Michael Berkman, Professor of Political Science at Penn State University."

Read the rest of the story at Accuweather.