Academy Article
December 19, 2022

Academy Hosts Conference on Reinventing Democracy at the Local Level


In December 2022, the Academy hosted a virtual conference, Reinventing Democracy: How Hometowns Are Strengthening America, that convened local leaders from across the country for panels and discussions highlighting important ways that hometowns are leading the charge to reinvent American democracy.

The three-day event emerged from the Academy’s ongoing, bipartisan commitment to strengthening democracy and to advance the recommendations in its the 2020 publication, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st century.

The event brought together mayors, city councilors, county executives, and other local government officials - along with scholars and experts – to engage on topics including ranked choice voting in local elections, civic learning and engagement, clean elections programs, mechanisms to expand citizen participation, investment in healthy civic infrastructure, and more.

“This is a pivotal time for American democracy. We know Americans want democracy and we know they are often frustrated by what they observe at the state and national levels, so it is heartening and important that local leaders are at the forefront of reinvigorating our commitment to a more inclusive, resilient, and responsive democracy,” said David Oxtoby, President of the Academy.

The conference featured keynote addresses from Eric Liu, CEO of Citizen University and co-chair of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, and PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff. In her remarks, Woodruff affirmed the importance of local leaders. “Time and time again, we’ve seen that it’s at the local level where solutions bubble up, where people are tackling the some of the toughest problems of our lives,” said Woodruff.

On the final day of the conference, Academy President David Oxtoby was joined by Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Linda Gorton in announcing that Lexington would be the first city to join the Our Common Purpose Communities Project, a new national coalition of municipalities committed to strengthening American democracy.

The conference and the OCP Communities Project continue the Academy’s ongoing work to strengthen the nation’s democratic institutions. The 2020 bipartisan report Our Common Purpose set forth 31 recommendations to help a nation in crisis build a more resilient democracy. The Commission – a multi-year effort co-chaired by Stephen Heintz, Danielle Allen, and Eric Liu – met with citizens and local leaders across the country while developing its recommendations. As part of the OCP Communities Project, Lexington will pursue two recommendations proposed in Our Common Purpose. Read more about the announcement here.

Read the full agenda of the conference here.

Municipalities across the country are invited to learn more about the Our Common Purpose Communities project and consider pledging to strengthen institutions and bolster engagement in ways that make America a more resilient and representative democracy. To join this effort or learn more, email




Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Danielle Allen, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric P. Liu