November 30, 2023

The 2023 Annual Conference on Citizenship, held in the heart of Washington, D.C. in partnership with the National Civic League, emerged as a powerful catalyst for envisioning the future of democracy in the United States. This gathering brought together civic leaders from across the nation, converging on a shared commitment to not only understand the pressing challenges of today but to collectively shape the trajectory of civic engagement and participation in the years to come.

The conference’s agenda seamlessly wove discussions on artificial intelligence, civic learning, democracy-building initiatives, and the transformative potential of technology. As the conference unfolded, it became evident that the event wasn’t just a reflection on the state of citizenship; it was a forward-looking exploration into the dynamic future of democratic ideals and practices.

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The morning plenary session, titled “Citizenship and Artificial Intelligence,” delved into the immediate and long-term implications of AI on democracy. Miranda Bogen, Director of AI Governance Lab, and Julia Angwin, Founder of Markup, engaged in a conversation moderated by Adam Conner from the Center for American Progress and Board Member at the National Conference on Citizenship. The discussions went beyond the hype and fear-mongering surrounding AI, focusing on its real impact on civic participation.

Breakout sessions followed, covering topics ranging from the future of civic learning to investing in the future of democracy and using data to measure civic health. These sessions provided a platform for leaders such as Raj Vinnakota, President of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, and Michelle Barsa, Principal at Omidyar Network, to share insights and experiences.

The afternoon plenary session unveiled a groundbreaking resource—an ecosystem map—mapping organizations, networks, and fields working to improve democracy’s health. Speakers including Matt Leighninger of the Center for Democracy Innovation and Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director Emerita of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, discussed the collaborative efforts needed in this new environment.

During lunch, discussions focused on structural reforms for the future of democracy, particularly at the state level. Notable speakers such as Maureen O’Connor, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and David Pepper, Former Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, explored threats, solutions, and the role of state-level reforms.

The day continued with interactive breakout sessions, addressing crucial issues like the role of nonprofit local news in saving democracy, defining and measuring civic health at the local level, and the evolving landscape of service and civic engagement. These sessions featured prominent figures such as Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, CEO of the National Trust for Local News, and Michael Smith, CEO of AmeriCorps.

As the conference approached its conclusion, the focus turned to understanding the online conversation around the 2024 US election, glimpses of the future from the All-America City Awards, and the potential use of Citizens’ Assemblies to set terms for Artificial Intelligence.

The day concluded with a cocktail hour and reception, providing attendees the opportunity to mingle, discuss, and enhance the Healthy Democracy Ecosystem map. Carolyn Lukensmeyer and Matt Leighninger led an interactive session, fostering collaboration and reflection on the day’s discussions. The 2023 Annual Conference on Citizenship proved to be a pivotal event, addressing critical issues and fostering collaboration among civic leaders committed to shaping the future of democracy.

The lead sponsor for the 2023 Conference was the Charles F. Kettering Foundation with additional sponsorship made possible from The Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, and NCoC’s Board of Directors.


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