By my calculation this is the 95th issue of The Democracy Center Newsletter, a publication we started on a lark in early 1997 with a few hundred readers and which has grown in the sixteen years since to have more than 6,000 readers worldwide. This year the Democracy Center marks our 20th anniversary and as we prepare to celebrate that big occasion during the course of this year we’d like your help and your ideas for how we should do that.
Earlier this month I sat down to write a brief history of the Democracy Center’s past two decades (read that history here) and it turned out that it was hard to be brief. We began in the fall of 1992 in San Francisco, diving into the battle for immigrant rights, setting up a progressive organization on state budget issues, and leading advocacy training workshops for groups ranging from the leaders of the state PTA to formerly homeless women campaigning for the rights of the poor. In 1998 the Democracy Center moved to Bolivia and soon after was at the center of the Cochabamba Water Revolt, the global campaign against the Bechtel Corporation, and documenting Bolivia’s brave challenge to the injustices of globalization. In the years since we have developed new projects aimed at corporate power, the crisis of climate change, and have trained and supported thousands of wonderful citizen activists across five continents. This week I leave for Bulgaria to work with UNICEF on their children’s rights advocacy there.
Each of you joined us somewhere along that long and diverse two-decade path. So how should we celebrate, together, twenty years of building real democracy from the ground up? The theme of the Democracy Center’s anniversary this year is Celebrating Citizen Activism – honoring that spark that makes a person an activist for the first time and that keeps us sustained and effective over a lifetime of fighting for social, economic, and environmental justice. We are planning birthday parties later this year in San Francisco, New York and other cities where our friends might want to join us. We are producing a new video featuring the voices of all those who have worked at the Democracy Center these two decades and others we have worked with around the world.
The Democracy Center is also using this anniversary to make a new commitment to the next generation of activists. As we look at the growing impact of climate change and the steep climb of getting our political systems to take real action, it is very clear that the next generation has been handed a very, very difficult challenge. Not since the Vietnam-era in the U.S. has a generation of young people had such a significant and direct stake in the political system. Effective, inspired activism by the young has never been more urgent. We are in the process of building something new we call The Democracy Web, a set of resources aimed directly at the next generation of active citizens. Later this year, I will also be doing a speaking tour of U.S. universities, to take our work of strengthening activists on the road.
We want to get you involved. How do you think the Democracy Center should celebrate our big birthday? Please send those ideas along by replying to this email. Are you interested in helping with an event or with a speaking invitation, let us know! The Democracy Center has always been a small organization that does big things, thanks to the support and involvement of you, our global community of friends and allies. We look forward to celebrating together!
See below for a couple of special announcements from the Democracy Center. Meanwhile, thanks to each of you for your ongoing interest and support of our work.
The Democracy Center
Debating Strategy on Climate Change
In December, I wrote an article that appeared in Climate Progress, Yes Magazine, AlterNet and elsewhere, which took a hard look at citizen action on the climate crisis. I sent the article to friends in the climate and environmental movement in different parts of the world with the aim of helping spark a deeper debate over our approaches to climate activism. That provoked a set of important responses from the U.S., Europe and here in Latin America. We’ve begun publishing these exchanges on the Democracy Center’s Blog on activism strategy, Getting Action. Read them here.
Job Announcement: Climate Program Coordinator
The Democracy Center is hiring a coordinator for its work on climate change. The position involves overall coordination responsibilities in three key areas: conducting fieldwork and research in the Andes; interacting extensively with civil society and social movements in the Andes and the Global North; and engaging with international climate policy issues, mechanisms, and debates. The Democracy Center is seeking a highly-motivated person who shares our sense of urgency about the global climate crisis and is ready to dig in and help make a real difference. Read the full job announcement here.
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