Education

1. The Democracy Workshop

…..thank you for bringing in Ashok Panikkar to present! What I found most fascinating was his look at democracy as a whole. I think too often we equate democracy with brief political moments or capitalism. We forget where and how democracy originated and how vital it is to our everyday life.”

Democracy is, both, a counter-intuitive and historically recent form of creating political order. Being a system based upon rule of law, the sovereignty of the people and individual rights, it requires specific conditions for it to thrive. This workshop is an exploration about democracy, the conditions necessary for its thriving and its vulnerabilities.

  • The relatively recent history of democratic states
  • Their unique vulnerabilities and stresses
  • Community, large group identity, trust, values and creating a culture of democracy
  • How to strengthen democratic states

 2. The Citizenship Workshop

 “I feel renovated as a Chinese cuz I wasn’t really familiar with politics and didn’t want to focus too much on the topic…. I feel renovated because we never have public chances to talk about politics, not like here in America. All news stations in China are government controlled and we can’t even….express our negative feelings about politics. But I still have hope in my country…. I hope one day…. Chinese government can trust people….”

Unlike autocratic systems where institutions and leadership are responsible for the welfare of society, in a democracy- where the people are sovereign- much depends upon the values and capabilities of ordinary citizens.

This workshop is an exploration about democracy and what it takes to be an effective citizen in a democratic state. It explores the following:

  • The history of democratic states and their critical vulnerabilities
  • Values, skills and dispositions that create a culture of democracy
  • The collaborative arts (mediation, consensus building) and democratic functioning
  • How citizens can contribute to strengthening their democracies.

 3. Critical Thinking Training

“Fabulous content, so important and he’s a great presenter…..”

Democracy is built upon the ability to create an understanding of reality and a vision of the future that transcends the peculiarities and limited interests of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or economic class.  This requires the ability to appreciate the emotional and mythical identities of its constituent groups even as we strive to negotiate a complex and equitable way of co-existing with each other.

This workshop will help participants develop basic critical thinking that will allow them to:

  • Separate subjective opinions from facts that can be substantiated through evidence
  • Identify fake news and suspicious sources from verifiable news and credible sources
  • Develop robust and well-reasoned arguments to make their case
  • Cultivate curiosity and openness to what seems counter-intuitive and disagreeable

 4. Dialogue and Negotiation Workshop

“My biggest takeaway from the presentation is how much we have to value even the littlest parts of democracy.”

Democracy requires constant negotiation between competing viewpoints and interests. This workshop equips citizens and citizen leaders with the tools required for:

  • Appreciating conditions necessary for democratic problem solving and dangers of short circuiting the process for immediate gains
  • Understanding other perspectives even when they seem threatening
  • Changing difficult negotiation into a collaborative one
  • Developing mutual gains through joint problem solving
  • Moving beyond partisan and narrow goals to large group and long-term gains

5. Citizen Café Facilitator Training

“My biggest takeaway from the presentation is how much we have to value even the littlest parts of democracy.”“I LOVED Citizen’s Cafe!! I thought it was extremely eye opening, informational, and very approachable. I really liked the group activities….. and I liked how much of the questions and discussions were pretty inclusive and broad.”

Living in a democracy it is easy to be impatient, frustrated and even cynical about its failings. Countering this requires building stronger and cohesive communities by engaging people in conversations and activities.  At this workshop, participants will learn how to:

  1. Discuss what the present crisis tells us about our own society and its vulnerabilities
  2. Identify key values, skills and dispositions necessary for a democratic culture
  3. Design and convene a Citizen Café in their neighborhood or workplace
  4. Strive for a balance between teaching key facts and facilitating reflective conversations

 6. Ah!Wake- The Citizenship Bootcamp

“The lecture was really inspiring and impressive….  I did learn a lot during the conversation and enjoyed a new perspective looking into the term democracy.”

Democracy is an aspirational agreement entered into by diverse groups and individuals that allows them to co-exist in creative harmony. It is counter-intuitive to the way human society is normally ordered and requires a greater level of awareness, generosity and skills than those required to thrive in hierarchical and autocratic societies. This weeklong program is designed to, through experiential games, simulations and discussions, help participants:

  • Radically question the ways in which participants think and engage with their world
  • Examine existing conceptual frameworks and developing new ones to address society’s most pressing issues.
  • Uncover their own hidden sensibilities and develop existing ones
  • Model and help create caring and simultaneously challenging environments that allow for radical and creative collaboration

 7. Communities Without Coercion- the Democratic Community Workshop

“I thought Ashok’s presentation was well done and he was so funny.”

Democratic communities struggle to balance individual rights and freedoms with the need for adherence to the community’s norms and rules. Too much of the first can lead to loss of trust and breakdown, too much of the second can lead to oppression.

This workshop will help participants develop communities that are respectful of individuals even as they foster interdependence and cohesion. We will explore:

  • The historic development of tribes, clans, social groups and nation states
  • The biological and social factors that affect how groups and their sub groups function
  • How groups create fidelity to norms- developing social contracts and social compacts
  • Tools for developing collaboration, conviviality and cohesion

8. Democratic Discourse 101

“Ashok talked about the importance of keeping the ball in play in a dialogue. When one party shuts down an idea presented by the other party, the conversation ends and so does the power to influence that person’s mind.”

Democracy, more than any other system of government, is dependent upon an intelligent and well-informed citizenry. It requires not just elections and good intentions but critical thinking and complex communication capabilities, both of which are critical to a constructive and mature public discourse. Without this, despite periodic elections that can effect changes in government, democracy deteriorates into a form of public entertainment or spectacle with spin-doctors, charlatans and demagogues determining what we hear and how we understand the world.

Democratic Discourse 101 is a tool designed to help citizens of a democracy, examine language as used in the public sphere. It will aim to raise public awareness about the level of discipline, rigor and intellectual honesty that might be present (or absent) in the thinking and communication of influential ideas.

This tool focuses on two primary criteria:

  1. How successfully does the author, in this text, maintain or adhere to the standards of Critical Thinking through the use of reason, logic, evidence, objectivity and intellectual integrity?
  2. How successfully does the author, in this text, create opportunities for those who think differently to engage in a constructive dialogue.

For more information on our events and programs contact: info@citizendemos.org