Education and democracy: How to bridge the social divides

Strasbourg, 7-9 November 2016

Call for lab submissions

Rounded Rectangular Callout: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express 
their choice are prepared to choose wisely. 
The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt



The World Forum for Democracy is a platform for dialogue and innovation dedicated to democracy which promotes the Council of Europe principles across the world. A unique event of its kind, it deals with challenges facing democracy taking as a starting point innovative initiatives and practice, and fostering debate between different actors in order to find SOLUTIONS. The Forum highlights and encourages democratic innovation to strengthen the foundations of democratic societies. A democratic exercise in itself, the Forum aims at giving the people – demos – their rightful place in political decision-making. It thus contributes to the evolution of democracy towards more participatory and inclusive structures and institutions.

Reserved: WHAT IS THE 2016 WORLD FORUM ABOUT? The 2016 World Forum for Democracy will focus on the relationship between education and democracy. It will examine whether they can reinforce each other and together address the risks of new social divides. In particular, the forum will explore how education and democracy can nurture active citizens with critical and analytical skills, and how through fostering grassroots innovation and bottom-up democratic reform, it can help develop civic engagement and improve opportunities for all.  

Education is central to democratic societies. In principle, the higher their level of education, the more actively citizens participate in elections and other aspects of democratic life. Education for democratic citizenship aims “by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviour to empower them to exercise and defend their democratic rights and responsibilities in society, to value diversity and to play an active part in democratic life, with a view to the promotion and protection of democracy and the rule of law"[2]

But is education fulfilling its democratic mission or is it failing to build the key qualities for democratic citizenship? What is the role of different education actors – teachers, learners, families, civil society organisations, public authorities, and the media? Is it necessary to reform the organisation and functioning of educational institutions in order to better respond to the requirements of democracy? Can schools and other educational environments become spaces for democratic experimentation, including new forms of democracy in the digital age? Are there new, alternative forms of learning and practicing democracy in educational institutions and how to analyse them?

In particular, the forum will explore how education and democracy

1) nurture active citizens with critical and analytical skills, as well as other key democratic competences;

§  What kind of democratic resources can be mobilised to help fund and improve access to quality education, giving access to learning to all pupils and students, particularly those in vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, while developing each pupil’s and student’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential?

§  Are technological developments, the use of ICT in education, public-private partnerships, and non-formal educational methods a potential solution to ensure a higher level of inclusion in education and to what extent institutions are able to combine different forms of provision, including both face to face and online?

§   How can we foster lifelong learning by making use of emerging technologies to support intergenerational dialogue?

§  How can education help bridge cultural (ethnic, religious, linguistic) divides in society and contribute to building a pluralistic identity?

Initiatives could include, inter alia, different forms of democratic schools; personalised learning and alternative teaching methods; education innovation through ICT; projects to provide learning opportunities for students in vulnerable groups; promoting pluralism and critical thinking through education, culture, or civic action; education to increase the public’s defense against hate speech; encouraging active citizenship, inter-faith dialogue and intercultural dialogue in education; youth empowerment programmes; and many more.


2) through grassroots innovation and bottom-up reform, promote and strengthen citizen participation and thereby help bridge social divides and improve opportunities for all

§  How can democracy be transformed towards more inclusive and participatory methods which give a voice to all citizens and not only the educated elites?

§  How can grassroots innovation in education inspire changes in democratic processes and contribute to democratic reform?

§  What changes at the level of school organisation and functioning, the roles and responsibilities of different education actors – teachers, learners, families, and civil society actors, public authorities, the media – are required to make schools and universities places where learners experience and practice democracy, including new forms of democracy in the digital age, and where critical thinking and participation in decision-making is not only taught but also practiced?

Initiatives and actions in this area would focus, for example, on inclusive models of democratic decision-making, such as citizens’ assemblies, citizen advisory councils, crowdsourcing of policy-making and their educational effects; ICT-enabled citizen outreach, information, and participation; laboratories for democratic citizenship and participation; programmes by governments or political parties to provide citizens with the opportunity to learn about political processes and voice their opinions; education for democratic citizenship through media or civil society actors; education reforms to make schools more participatory and inclusive; projects to provide opportunities for economically disadvantaged youth; projects which involve educational actors & students in democratic debate and decision-making; etc.

Reserved: HOW DO THE LABS WORK?The labs are the of the World Forum for Democracy. Their idea is to address specific issues through the critical analysis of tested initiatives. The initiatives will be presented in short speeches of ten minutes and critically assessed by multidisciplinary panels and participants in the labs. Cartoonists will illustrate the sessions live. The key conclusions and lessons learnt from the labs will be discussed in a summing up session in order to prepare the overall conclusions for the Forum.

Interested organisations/institutions worldwide are invited to express their interest in presenting an example/initiative to make education more democracy-centred or to revitalise democracy through education, by answering the questionnaire in the appendix and sending it to forum_democracy@coe.intby 15 May 2016. The World Forum Task Force will select the most interesting and relevant proposals in June 2016.

One presenter for the selected initiatives will be invited to Strasbourg to take part in the World Forum. Funded places are available. Any public or private organisation is eligible to apply.

For further information about the World Forum for Democracy 2016, please visit the following websites:


Submission of initiative
at the World Forum on Democracy, 7-9 November 2016



Title of the initiative:

Contact person (Mr/Ms):



Mobile phone:



Social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.):

Brief presentation of the organisation (legal status, number of members/employees, field of operation, goals, other relevant information).

Brief description of the initiative/idea (max. 200 words): goals, actions, scope, participants, partners.

What is the origin of the initiative (sources of inspiration, relevant academic debate etc.)?

How is this initiative contributing to nurturing citizens with key democratic competences or to  strengthening democracies to be better able to bridge social divides?

How was the initiative implemented?

What have been the results so far?

Which indicators did you use to assess the initiative’s results?

What challenges have been encountered in the implementation phase?

How does your initiative differ from other existing initiatives? What makes your initiative a democracy innovation?

To what extent is your initiative transferable to other organisations and countries?

Any additional relevant information/references.

Please indicate who will present the initiative, as well as a replacement in case of an emergency that prevents the first presenter from participating in the Forum (Mr/Ms, name, position, city, country, e-mail, telephone):

Language of presentation :

          ○ English
          ○ French

          ○ other (please specify, presentations in other languages will be an exception)

Will you need a Visa for entering France?

Will you be able to prepare a 2-3 min. video about your initiative prior to the Forum, in case you are selected?

Yes      No

[1] Source: VOLODDYMYR V. MARTSENIUK / – informations sur l’autorisation : Usage éditorial uniquement

[2] Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education