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Call for Nominations for the 2018 Brown Democracy Medal

Nov 15, 2017

Nominations for the 2018 Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State is accepting nominations for the 2018 Brown Democracy Medal. The Medal and $5,000 are awarded annually to individuals or organizations doing the best new work to advance democracy in the United States and around the globe. The Brown Medal recognizes recent work that is significant but under-appreciated. The medal helps bring new ideas and innovations the public recognition they deserve.

Award Review Process

The award is open to any significant contribution in democratic research, reform, practice, or theory. All nominations will be considered according to the review criteria set out below.

Nominations for the 2018 medal will be accepted through January 8, 2018.

The winner will give a talk at Penn State in fall of 2018, when they will receive their award. Between the spring announcement of the winner and the on-campus event in the fall, the Institute will provide the recipient with professional editorial assistance toward completing a short (20-25 page) essay describing the innovation for a general audience. In the fall, Cornell University Press will publish the essay, which will be available at a very low price to aid the diffusion of the winning innovation. Essays from the previous winners are available through Cornell University Press and other online outlets.

To assure full consideration, please send all nomination letters before January 8, 2018 to democracyinst@psu.edu. Initial nomination letters are simply that, a one-to-two page letter that describes how the nominee’s work meets the criteria for this award and what distinguishes it from other work on democracy. Both self-nominations and nominations of others are welcomed. In either case, email, phone, and postal contact information for the nominee must be included.

A distinguished review panel will screen initial nominations and select a subset of nominees for the second round. Those nominees will be required to provide further documentation, including: a brief biographical sketch of the individual or organization nominated; two letters of support; and a basic description of the innovation and its efficacy. The review panel will scrutinize the more detailed applications and select an awardee in the spring of 2018.

Review Criteria

The democratic innovation selected will score highest on these features:

  1.  Novelty. The innovation is precisely that—a genuinely new way of thinking about democracy or practicing it. The award is thus intended to recognize recent accomplishments, which have occurred during the previous five years. The innovation will likely build on or draw on past ideas and practices, but its novelty must be obvious.
  2. Systemic Change. The idea, theory, or practical reform should represent significant change in how we think about and practice democracy. Ideas should be of the highest clarity and quality, empirical studies should be rigorous and grounded in evidence, and practical reforms must have proof of their effectiveness. The change the innovation brings about should be able to alter the larger functioning of a democratic system over a long time frame.
  3. Potential for Diffusion. The idea or reform should have general applicability across many different scales and cultural contexts. In other words, it should be relevant to people who aspire to democracy in many parts of the world and/or in many different social or political settings.
  4. Democratic Quality. In practical terms, while the nominees themselves may well be partisan, the spirit of this innovation must be nonpartisan and advance the most essential qualities of democracy, such as broad social inclusion, deliberativeness, political equality, and effective self-governance.

Individuals or organizations who are Penn State alumni or employees, or who have worked closely with the Institute, are not eligible. Returning applicants may notice that our process has changed from previous years, when awards alternated between democratic theory and practical innovation.

Questions and Further Information

Any questions or requests for more information should be sent to .
The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State (http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu) promotes rigorous scholarship and practical innovations to advance the democratic process in the United States and abroad.