In Defense of Democracy: The Evolution of Civic Education in the Digital Age

Time Zone:


Event Date:

08 May 2019 at 3:00pm
George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs, Lindner Commons, 1957 E Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

On May 8, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) will hold a panel discussion at George Washington University, titled “In Defense of Democracy: The Evolution of Civic Education in the Digital Age.” The event will include a presentation on how civic education has evolved over time and space, bringing us to the current digital age. This will be followed by a panel discussion that will offer overviews of ongoing case studies in Ukraine and the United States, with a special focus on formal civic education. The panel discussion will be followed by facilitated discussions that will yield recommendations on elements that civic education programs will need to consider as they evolve to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s digital age democracies.



  • Anthony Banbury, President and CEO, IFES
  • Greer Burroughs, Senior Civic Education Expert, IFES
  • Lee Arbetman, Executive Director, Street Law
  • Gio Kobakhidze, Deputy Country Director for Ukraine, IFES
  • Lauren Serpe, Deputy Technical Director, Results and Measurement, Pact
  • Katya Vogt, Global Lead for Media and Information Literacy Initiatives, IREX

Where, when and how do citizens learn to be informed and engaged in the democratic process? What knowledge, values and skills do citizens need in order for democracy to thrive in the digital age? What is the role of formal education systems in equipping the next generation of effective democratic citizens in the digital age? How do traditional civic education programs need to adapt to the challenges faced by today’s and tomorrow’s democracies?

These are some of the important questions that democracies – young and mature – must increasingly reflect and take action on if they are to stem and reverse the waning of freedom and democracy across the globe, and to address the clear and present challenges to our digital democracies.

When citizens are not empowered or equipped to exercise and defend their or others’ democratic rights and responsibilities, the opportunity for disinformation, corruption and electoral fraud increases, thereby amplifying the potential for leaders to take undemocratic actions that threaten human rights, stability and prosperity. This reality is further exasperated and accelerated by the onset of new technologies and fine-tuned algorithms that can be used by competing interests with unprecedented surgical precision and impact.

A robust, diverse, active and informed electorate is a linchpin of any democratic society and is of particular importance for post-Revolution of Dignity Ukraine as its citizens continue to seek ways to realize their expectations through the various means available in a democratic society. In the years since its 2014 revolution, Ukraine has made tangible progress in formal civic education and its modernization. This includes the introduction of courses, curricula and training methodology for teachers at the primary, secondary and university levels.

This event will provide a platform for the sharing of good practices, lessons learned and recommendations from Ukrainian and United States case studies. It will also foster linkages and partnerships in support of effective civic education between democracy promotion organizations, civic education organizations, think tanks, academia and others.

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