Skip to main content

Making Democracy Work

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Making Democracy Work 

Concluding Conference of the Frontiers of Democracy Initiative

“Making Democracy Work” will be the final major international event of the CEU Frontiers of Democracy Initiative in the academic year 2015-16. It will follow three other Frontiers of Democracy conferences in Budapest during the year: “Democracy and Its Discontents”, co-sponsored by CEU and the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law of Stanford University on October 9-10, 2015, which focused on problems in established Western democracies; “Inside the Struggle: The U. S. Civil Rights Movement and the European Roma Rights Crisis” on December 7-8, 2015, looking at the protection of minorities in constitutional democracies; and “Illiberal Governance” on February 19-20, 2016, which examined new forms of illiberal democracy and neo-authoritarianism.

Building on these and earlier Frontiers of Democracy conferences, “Making Democracy Work” will explore innovative practices that are being used or planned for implementing, expanding, improving, or changing democracy. New digital tools and power flows are disrupting old hierarchical models, presenting opportunities and dangers for democracy. Democracy innovators are taking advantage of these disruptions and seeking to work around negative outcomes. Civil society is under pressure both from the instruments of neo-authoritarian governance and from the decaying of traditional liberal democratic institutions. Innovators must develop new tools and often work outside the mainstream.

This capstone conference will be a laboratory for creative and even far-fetched innovations. How are people seeking to take control over their own governance? What direct citizen voting and decision-making practices are being tried? How are civil society actors working in authoritarian settings? How are minorities being protected by these innovations?

The conference will take place on June 23, 2016 as a part of CEU’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The format will be interactive, encouraging exchange among participants facilitated by strong moderators. It will feature a series of three sessions and a closing panel, each with an opening speaker who will also chair the session, followed by three to five speakers/discussants.

RSVP is requested, to


9:00 a.m. / Registration / CEU Auditorium Foyer

9:20 – 9:30 a.m. / Introductory Remarks by CEU President and Rector John Shattuck                  

9:30 – 9:35 a.m. /  Short film clips from Frontiers of Democracy conferences 

9:40 – 11:40 a.m. / Panel I: Innovations in Civil Society

The panel will focus on initiatives by civil society actors that show how civil society actors outside government can operate to promote democracy where existing governance systems are oppressive and decaying.

Chair:  Donatella Della Porta | Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy


  • Jan Kubik | University College, London, UK 
  • Laszlo Bruszt | Central European University, Hungary
  • Intissar Kherigi | Jasmine Foundation, Tunisia
  • Elena Pavan | Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy 
  • Eduardo Romanos | Complutense Universidad de Madrid, Spain 

11:40 – 1 p.m. /  Lunch break

1 – 3 p.m. /  Panel II: Political Parties and Elections

The panel will explore changes that have been introduced or proposed in voting systems to stimulate participation, prevent dominance by special interests, reduce backsliding and polarization or decentralize decision-making.  The panel will also address the role and place of political parties in new governance arrangements outside traditional liberal democratic practice. 

Chair: Thomas Carothers | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, USA


  • Phillippe Schmitter | European University Institute (EUI), Italy
  • Benjamin Reilly | Murdoch University Graduate School, Australia 
  • Patricia Calca | Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Germany | New University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Marina Weisband | Pirate Party, Germany (video recording)

3 – 3:15 p.m.Coffee break 

3:15 – 4:50 p.m. / Panel III: New Ideas - Digital and Real Communities

The panel will examine plans and proposals to promote new forms of democratic participation and institutional change.

Chair: Ethan Zuckerman | Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA


  • Stefania Milan | University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Pedro Abramovay | Open Society Foundations Latin America & the Caribbean 
  • Chelsea Barabas | MIT Media Lab, USA

4:50 – 5 p.m. / Changeover Break

5 – 6 p.m. /  Panel IV: Beyond Conventional Democracy

Based on the discussions of the previous panels, this panel will review weaknesses of democracy as a form of governance, and examine possible solutions.

Chair and moderator: Donatella Della Porta | Scuola Normale Superiore


  • Philippe Schmitter | European University Institute (EUI)
  • Thomas Carothers | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Elena Pavan | Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy
  • Ethan Zuckerman | MIT

6 – 6:15 p.m. / Closing remarks by CEU President and Rector, John Shattuck

6:15 – 7 p.m.Reception

RSVP is requested, to

Supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

[[{"fid":"98059","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"OSF","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"OSF"},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"OSF","title":"OSF","class":"panopoly-image-half media-element file-full"}}]]