About Community Democracy Workshop

The Purpose of Community Democracy Workshop

Improving the practices of democracy for problem solving in and by the communities where people live.


What is community democracy?

Community democracy is alive when communities have the power and capacity and are engaged to take responsibility for the changes they want, and when the needs, desires, and wishes of people in community are the driving force for change. Community democracy’s promise is expressed through powerful evidence that outcomes improve when the people most adversely affected by conditions and decisions are directly involved in taking the actions that lead to improvement.


Background and Approach

Community Democracy Workshop (CDW) has many deep roots, but had a specific beginning in workshops, discussion groups, talks and research beginning in 2011 with the purpose of exploring the practices of democracy as problem solving tools and systems in and by the communities where people live.

On the face of it this should be an easy task. After all, democracy is part of the American ideal. But in practice improving the problem solving abilities and successes of communities and eventually the nation requires practical restructuring of who wields power [power defined as: “the ability to do or act”], so that those individuals and communities which have direct experience with the problems can bring their interest, knowledge and experience to creating better outcomes. Attempts to shift power always run up against existing interests. Currently the greatest parts of our problem solving assets as a country are blocked by government, private and non-profit sector interests, practices and systems.

Community Democracy Workshop has grown since its inception into a cooperative venture of individuals and institutions, who work with the following groups in order to build community power:

  1. Organized or organizing community members,
  2. community friendly institutions, often within  governmental units, philanthropies and non-profits, and universities

What We Do

Our Guiding Inquiry

Dynamics of Difference. Community democracy is strongest when people are working constructively across differences of interest. Racial, ethnic and so-called hard to reach residents must be represented in all aspects of community democracy.

Community Assets. Communities hold untapped assets, and the potential for successful strategies to create change exists in every community.

Community Commons. Multiple commons are essential; democracy happens in places where people feel safe enough to first consider their own interests and then venture across boundaries of difference with others.

Time and Convergence. Community democracy flourishes within disparate community time frames and with imbalanced resources that must none the less converge in problem solving and decision making.

Essential Infrastructure. Community democracy needs reliable staging grounds; the availability of tools and supports determines to a large degree who can and cannot engage civically. Specific effort has to be made to build the power and capacity of so-called “hard to reach” residents. Specific effort also has to be made to acknowledge and address the degree to which race, class, gender, economic inequities, and other forms of social injustice impede progress.

Essential Knowledge. Everyone has knowledge and everyone can learn. Identifying and applying knowledge is an opportunity to build community power and capacity. The role of outside experts is essential, if secondary.