SUMMER INSTITUTE2019-01-18T08:03:22+00:00


Applications for the 2019 Summer Institute have now closed. Please watch this space for information about our inaugural class of researchers and practitioners.

Direct any questions about this summer training institute to: Nicole Willcoxon, Postdoctoral Scholar, Center on Democracy and Organizing,

The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO) seeks applications from advanced Ph.D. students and early career researchers and organizers for participation in a summer training institute in 2019 focused on the study of democracy and organizing. The institute will be held from July 31 to August 2 at the University of California, Berkeley. This summer institute will bring together researchers and practitioners interested in developing the capacity to do engaged research in partnership. This dynamic and interactive institute will give participants—10 researchers and 10 practitioners—the chance to learn to work together on research projects that help practitioners advance their strategic goals.

The institute will focus on articulating the benefits of building research partnerships between  academics and organizers, developing the capacities needed among both academics and organizers to work together, and creating the opportunity for researcher-organizer pairs to work directly on a project of interest. The institute seeks to reframe how graduate students and early career scholars understand their role as researchers, focus on the ways engaging with practitioners can deepen and improve their theorizing about the socio-political world, and also help practitioners and scholars develop a common language in order to engage as equal partners in the research process.

Researchers and practitioners with similar interests and goals will either be paired by CDO, or can apply as a pair.

This institute is funded thanks to grants from the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations. Travel (U.S. domestic economy-class round-trip airfare), food, and lodging will be covered for accepted applicants. In addition, participants will be eligible to apply for seed funding of up to $5,000 from CDO to carry out research projects conceived and developed through the institute.

Practitioners working as organizers in the United States, graduate students, recent Ph.Ds, and early career scholars in any discipline are encouraged to apply. We particularly encourage diverse applicants and candidates from under-resourced backgrounds.

The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO)

To strengthen democracy around the world, organizations and activists constantly make strategic choices about how best to inform, engage, and amplify the voices of ordinary people and mobilize collective action. Research often is not available to serve the needs of these actors. CDO is a newly-established university-based center at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with the aim of generating usable research, sharpening the strategic capacity of participating organizations, and developing a generation of scholars from diverse backgrounds who can do work that addresses the concrete needs of practitioners. The summer training institute is one of several initial tasks CDO is implementing to begin developing a vision to train graduate students and early career scholars to produce knowledge in this way.

The goals of the summer training institute include:

  • Creating an infrastructure for practitioners and academics to work meaningfully in partnership with each other to co-construct joint understandings. The purpose is to develop co-produced research on the trends and tactics that will support practitioners and advance democracy with academically rigorous work that also moves forward the discipline.
  • For graduate students and early career scholars: raising awareness about biases in the academic space that prevent engaged scholarship, and offering the space, resources, and opportunity to learn to work with practitioners. The institute will reframe how graduate students understand their roles as researchers and consider how epistemological biases limit researchers’ ability to consider issues of power and inequality in their research practice.
  • For practitioners: explaining how academics can be productive research partners, and helping them gain the language they need in order to engage as equal partners in the research process
  • Building meaningful partnerships that could lead to future research collaboration.
  • Offering seed money for successful collaborative projects between practitioners and researchers.

The institute will be led by both academics and seasoned practitioners with successful experience in collaborative research. The Institute’s curriculum will be focused on building partnerships, and will thus be interactive and participation-based.

Deadline: December 17, 2018

The application for practitioners is available here.

The application for Ph.D. students, recent Ph.Ds, and early career scholars is available here.


  • CV/Resume
  • List of up to three references
  • Answers to the following questions (available when you link to the Google Form):


1) What are examples of the key strategic choices and challenges you or your organization are facing?

2) What are examples of the core research questions or types of research you are most interested in?

3) How could you and/or your organization benefit from this summer training institute? Please describe you or your organization’s experience with research, and interests in doing research in the future.

4) Describe the qualifications of the researcher would you like to be paired with, such as experience with data analysis, participant observation, community oriented study, etc.

5) Is there a researcher you are applying with? If so, please specify the name of the researcher so we can link your applications.


1) What areas of research are you interested in (such as programmatic, practice of organizing, change, etc.)? What kind of methodological tools do you use, and how do you see those as contributing to this work? Please describe your past research and future research plans.

2) Why are you interested in the summer institute?

3) How could you and/or your institution benefit from this summer training institute? Please describe any past experience doing engaged research and how it might fit into your future plans.

4) What type of practitioner would you like to be paired with? Please indicate any specific issue areas of interest.

5) Is there a practitioner you are applying with? If so, please specify the name of the practitioner so we can link your applications.