Having done our last meeting through videoconference, network members finally gathered together again at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg in late January (26-27). Three central topics shaped the agenda. First, we discussed our individual draft contributions to a joint policy paper on the current state of democracy promotion globally, likely to be published by May 2018. In this policy report with the tentative title of “Shrouded in uncertainty: democracy promotion in the age of democratic erosion”, we take stock of the current key challenges and formulate responses to them. Each network member contributes to the overall report with one article from his or her respective field of expertise.
Secondly, many of us have begun to include innovative learning techniques into their seminars and three of us reported on Lego as a helpful and fun tool to, for example, “build democracy”. Asking students to work with Lego, particularly at the beginning of a class, has many different functions: as an icebreaker, building Lego can function as a very inclusive way to allow students to get to know each other and speak up and about their conceptions; Lego can also assist in more classical learning methods and enhance learning effects by providing an entirely different access to knowledge; and finally, our colleagues report that particularly for heterogeneous groups from different cultures and different conflict settings, Lego can provide a way to address sensitive topics more easily. Obviously, we did not shy away from experiencing these effects ourselves (see the pictures).
Another important debate revolved around how the network intends to develop in the future. Here, we identified the essential ideas and visions that we share and will now begin the process of outlining a future core project.