Deliberative Democracy Institute (DDI)

What is DDI?

DDI 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. It is called a learning exchange because Kettering shares the insights that it has developed over more than thirty years of studying how democracy can best work as it should in exchange for the participants sharing their own experiences and learning.

DDI takes place in Dayton each summer and brings together scholars, journalists, community leaders, civil society practitioners, and others. Participants have a wide range of interests, but 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. Recent DDI participants have come from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

Each participant is first nominated and then invited to the exchange. Kettering receives more nominations and requests to attend DDI than capacity allows. Because we are trying to foster a network of practice, before sending invitations Kettering looks for evidence that nominees have an interest in experimenting with different ways of exploring democratic life. People who are connected to organizations or institutions are preferred, because such relationships can broaden the network in ways that unaffiliated individuals may find challenging.

What happens at DDI?

DDI is a weeklong series of exchanges where participants describe challenges citizens face in solving common public problems and what they have learned, and Kettering shares insights from its research. This joint learning provides an ongoing interchange of ideas and continues beyond the face-to-face meetings in Dayton.

Participants and Kettering staff form two groups: DDI I is for those attending for the first time, and DDI II is for returning participants. Not all DDW I participants return for DDI II.

DDI I begins by exploring the idea of a deliberative public and considering new ways for organizing political work in communities. DDI I participants begin to contextualize their own experiences and view them through the lens of deliberative politics.

Many people return for DDI II to share the work they have done over the previous year, and to discuss the challenges encountered and what they have done to meet them. In doing so, they continue to learn together and become part of a large network of people engaged in the work of deliberative democracy, which is founded on the important role citizens play in politics.

What happens after DDI?

Completion of the two-year DDI I and II exchanges is a prerequisite for several of the Kettering Foundation’s research positions. These six-month residencies begin in January and July and involve working on Kettering’s research. In addition, Kettering develops learning agreements with individuals and with organizations to work on specific projects. Many participants continue to work with Kettering on these projects and with the larger multinational network of scholar-practitioners. They may also come back in the years after DDI for shorter research exchanges.