Two key elements:
1) The first is a dialogue element in which we use Socratic inquiry to delve into issues that touch upon the nature and future of democracy (or democracies, and open societies in general).. Any question that has the potential to do that is good grist for a Democracy Cafe inquiry. It can be questions like: What is democracy? What is the best democracy? Is democracy all it’s cracked up to be? Does democracy have a future? Or it can be questions like those listed above, that go further afield, that explore the nature of revolutions meant to bring about greater inclusiveness. Or questions of the sort that Tocqueville sought to answer.
2) There is an activist element to this initiative — meaning, the questions explored hopefully will serve as a platform that inspires participants to experiment with concrete initiatives aimed at advancing more vibrant and open societies, in the U.S. and abroad. In the case of the U.S, some principal efforts will be aimed at making our constitutional republic all it can be (which can both spring from and lead to vigorous exchanges on whether we should still strive to achieve the vision of our founders — and what that vision (or visions) amounts to — or whether we should strike out on our own in paths that they’d never have considered.
The kind of questions we explore at a Democracy Cafe:
What is the proper, or ideal, role of police in a free society?
How do we make ours genuinely a government of, by and for the people?
What can we do to make sure that fundamentalism does not win the day?
How might we most effectively deal with crises — e..g., Ebola, the BP spill, the growing water shortage, hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina — in an open society?
Should there be limits to freedom of expression?
What role might the humanities play in evolving open societies?