In July 2007, about 40 people – faculty from across disciplines, campus leaders, and civic leaders – gathered for several days at the University of New Hampshire to discuss the role of higher education in American democracy. While we gathered out of concern for the way our democracy seemed to be working, we were also encouraged by promising experiments in democratic dialogue, deliberative politics, and public problem solving, efforts that seem strategic and designed with a strong democracy in mind. Many of the academics in the group were already experimenting with approaches to civic learning, political engagement, democratic dialogue, and programs in leadership or conflict resolution, but in many cases, they didn’t know about each other or even the networks of individuals doing similar work. We agreed to form The Democracy Imperative, a network of educators and who would work together to strengthen democracy in and through higher education.

One of our first priorities was to publish a paper framing the nature of the problem and our vision for higher education as a vibrant partner in democratic renewal work. We published that paper in late 2007, but this is a fast-moving field. This 2010 version is an updated version of the Democracy Imperative's original framing paper.