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Grand Challenges: The Maryland Democracy Initiative: Building a Better Democracy for All

MDI Photo from Constitution Day Dialogue Event

Panel photo from Constitution Day Dialogue Event on September 18, 2023

Grant Type: Impact Award
Topics: Threats to Democracy and Misinformation
Colleges Represented: EDUC, BSOS, JOUR, SPP

Grand Challenges Grants Program


American democracy is in crisis. The lack of trust in democratic institutions—including in our election system, our public schools, and the news media—represent major threats.

Deep and growing polarization threatens to thwart any understanding of the common good. Dangerous rhetoric begetting political violence threatens our nation’s stability and jeopardizes a fundamental principle of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. These threats as well as metastasizing misinformation and disinformation have significantly exacerbated inequalities and tensions across racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines, putting in question our two-century long experiment in self-governance. Without a vibrant and healthy democracy, we stand little chance of tackling other urgent policy issues facing the nation and the planet such as the climate crisis, structural racism, and poverty.

The Maryland Democracy Initiative will catalyze interdisciplinary innovation in three core areas: cutting-edge research, inventive teaching and learning, and impactful civic engagement. This initiative will establish University of Maryland as a force to empower students, faculty, and staff on campus—and our Maryland Democracy Initiativecommunity partners throughout Maryland—as co-creators of solutions that remove barriers that threaten our future as nation and that ensure a better democracy for all.

Team Members:

PI: Lena Morreale Scott (EDUC), Director of the Civic Education and Engagement Initiative

Michael Hanmer (BSOS), Professor and Director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement

Rafael Lorente (JOUR), Dean and Professor of the Practice

Paul Brown (SPP), Associate Clinical Professor, Public Policy, and Director, Civic Innovation Center

Antoine Banks (BSOS), Professor and Interim Chair in the Department of Government and Politics, Director of the Government and Politics Research Lab

Sarah Oates (JOUR), Associate Dean, Research; Professor; Senior Scholar; Director of Ph.D. Studies

Sam Novey (BSOS), Chief Strategist, Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement

Tom Rosenstiel (JOUR), Eleanor Merrill Visiting Professor on the Future of Journalism

Sarah McGrew (EDUC), Assistant Professor, Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership

Lucas Butler (EDUC), Associate Professor, Human Development and Quantitative Methodology

Doug Lombardi (EDUC), Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs; Professor, Human Development and Quantitative Methodology

David Backer (SPP), Research Professor; Research Director, CISSM

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