Our Approach

Community Democracy Workshop organizes its work around three sets of goals and strategies: community work, knowledge-building, and practitioner development.

Community Work

The pervasive poverty and distress that prevails in many rural and urban communities, places limitations on residents that without incredible resiliency or extraordinary support, are often impossible to overcome. In our efforts to confront these environmental barriers, Community Democracy Workshop recognized early that in order to solve community problems and improve the overall well-being of whole communities, community democracy must be reinstated—and this process must include not only strategies to specifically address stubborn problems, but also strategies to build the power and capacity for neighborhood self-sufficiency and self-determination.  In these communities residents are the primary stakeholders and they must be the primary change agents. Furthermore, extensive research supports the necessity of leadership by those most affected to build durable improvement.

Goal:  To increase the power and capacity of communities to identify, negotiate and affect the changes they want.

  • Community Democracy Workshop engages directly in communities to learn from and contribute to what is working there, to “ground-truth” existing and emerging knowledge, and to capture stories, practices and processes.
  • Community Democracy Workshop connects communities with accessible information and tools developed through its knowledge-building activities, and feeds valuable knowledge from the communities into the growing framework of knowledge.


Throughout its work, both locally and nationally, Community Democracy Workshop seeks to stimulate a productive, responsive learning cohort of community stakeholders, especially residents and community change agents, practitioners, funders and public and private institutions.

Goal:  To create a living framework of knowledge and tools that is accessible to communities and institutions as they aim to strengthen community democracy.

  • Community Democracy Workshop lifts up a unified and compelling case through extensive stories, community-generated data, and existing and emerging research from many sources that together provide evidence of the effective elements of people working in community;
  • Identifies effective pathways and agreements that are available to institutions and that allow them to align with and support the processes of community democracy;
  • Assesses policy at community, institutional, and system-wide levels;
  • Supports its case through collaborative research and by developing a framework that identifies, analyzes and summarizes existing and emerging strands of evidence from disparate fields. It produces accessible papers, tools, and summaries of the work;
  • Disseminates its learning by developing papers, a website, social media and useful guides and tools for interested practitioners; and
  • Continually adjusts its framework of knowledge through a recurring process of learning, clarifying and revising.

Practitioner Development

Community Democracy Workshop is committed to uncovering the necessary elements of effective practices to energize and support philanthropy, government, communities, and non-profit organizations to engage residents and public and private institutions in collective actions to solve problems in neighborhoods. Community Democracy Workshop seeks to enhance capacity at much broader and deeper levels in communities—to create opportunities for residents and their allies to gain competencies in a broad range of areas that are sustainable over time and that enable them to be the principal change agents in their communities and institutions.

Goal:  To build a constituency of practitioners that supports the increased knowledge, power and capacity of people working to transform their communities, contributes to the framework of knowledge, and engages in policy development to benefit communities.

  • Community Democracy Workshop shares the accumulated knowledge and stories widely through peer-learning workshops and exchanges, energized online forums, opportunities for reflection, and other vehicles for collaborative learning;
  • Conducts open forums for critique of its own theories and practices;
  • Mobilizes increased philanthropic support; and
  • Supports efforts to develop policy at community, institutional, and system-wide levels that strengthen community democracy.