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Democracy Initiative

The vision for the Democracy Initiative is to serve as the recognized pinnacle of integrated research, teaching, and public engagement on democracy at a global scale.  

The University of Virginia’s establishment in 1817 is inseparably linked to our nation’s bold experiment with democracy.  It was created for a specific purpose—to educate the American citizenry to help democracy flourish. Our history uniquely positions the University to be the global center for the study of democracy’s successes and failures, opportunities and threats, and to influence policies that strengthen democracies worldwide. 

By launching the Democracy Initiative, the University of Virginia seeks to catalyze a series of interconnected research and teaching projects that study how democracies have fared in their efforts to achieve legitimacy, stability, civil equality, accountability, prosperity, and resilience in the face of contemporary and past challenges.

Most of the 2017-18 academic year was intended for planning. However, in light of the horrific events of August 11 and 12 that took place on our Grounds and in Charlottesville, the College has jump-started this effort with the launch of the Inaugural Democracy Lab on Race, Religion, and Global Democracies.

A call to the faculty for proposals for additional Democracy Labs was issued on October 2, 2017 to stand up labs broader in nature than the Inaugural Democracy Lab. As a result of that process, the lab focused on corruption (formally, The Governance Initiative: Corruption in Institutions, History, and Markets) was announced in April of 2018.

For additional context about the Democracy Initiative, read the stories in A&S magazine.