The Future of Democracy

August 1-3, 2022

“More than a quarter of the world’s population now live in democratically backsliding countries. Together with those living in outright non-democratic regimes, they make up more than two-thirds of the world’s population.” 

The Global State of Democracy 2021: Building Resilience in a Pandemic Era, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, p. vii

The end of the Cold War and related collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed like a declaration of victory for democracy; in the immediate years that followed there was a flourishing of democratic growth across the globe. Today, those victory bells seem a distant memory, as an increasing number of democratic regimes face democratic erosion and backsliding, and non-democratic regimes deepen their authoritarian tendencies. The US, known as the cradle of democracy and once considered a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world, is not immune to this challenge. Exacerbated by a number of global phenomena – economic inequality, a global pandemic, mis/disinformation, government corruption, and more – democratic erosion is affecting nations worldwide with no clear international consensus on how to respond. At this summer’s Global Studies Outreach workshop, we will consider the future of democracy using global case studies as well as the American comparative perspective. The following questions will guide our study of this topic:

  1. How are authoritarianism and democracy defined today? Have/how have the global conceptions and practice of democracy and authoritarianism evolved since WWII?
  2. What are some of the underlying causes of the slide into autocracy and how do they differ by nation?
    1. What role do economic systems, corporations, and economic inequality play in this narrative?
    2. What role does media and social media play in the construction of pro- and anti-democratic language and movements in the US and abroad?
    3. How is the construction and use of the “other” a central component of authoritarianism?
  3. What are symptoms of democratic erosion? How do you recognize it and combat it? How can a well-ordered civil society reinforce democratic regimes and/or challenge authoritarian regimes?
  4. What does a resilient democracy look like? How are/can individuals and communities work together to strengthen democracy/limit authoritarianism in their own communities/nations?
  5. How can we teach about the perils of authoritarianism in a hyper-partisan environment?

Understanding the problem is just the beginning. As citizens and as educators we are an important part of the multifaceted solutions required in shaping the future of democracy and helping a generation of young people learn how to inhabit their civic duty. At our workshop, through sessions with content, policy and pedagogy experts, we will stitch together first-hand experience, new knowledge, and diverse strategies for engagement.

This year's workshop will take place in-person* at Harvard University on August 1-3, 2022. An additional full-day's content will be offered virtually during the last week of July, 2022 (exact dates TBA). The cost to attend the workshop is $75. Please note that we do not have funds to subsidize travel to the workshop. 

Apply Now! The deadline to apply is May 11. 


The Global Studies Outreach Committee will follow all CDC guidelines for COVID safety. All GSOC staff, scholars, and participants will need to be fully vaccinated in order to attend.

*If Covid realities change, we may need to pivot and undertake the workshop virtually. We will do our best to keep you informed regarding any possible pivot, as we understand it may impact your plans, especially if you need to travel to Cambridge from outside of Massachusetts.