What Democracy Feels Like

May 31, 2017

Paul J. AicherIf you've participated in one of our dialogue-to-change programs or other community engagement event, you might have thought to yourself, "This is what democracy feels like!"

At Everyday Democracy, we strive to make democracy something that happens not just on election day, but every day. Our founder, Paul J. Aicher, envisioned a country where everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard and improve public life.

What Democracy Feels Like was published in 2002, and offered a comprehensive account of the work and passion that ultimately led to the creation of Everyday Democracy. We are pleased to announce this commemorative re-issue of the booklet to celebrate our first annual Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award (nominations close June 15).

Many of the stories and themes in this book are just as true today as the day they were written.


When Paul's wife Joyce passed away last fall, we wanted to find a way to honor the generosity, caring, and commitment to voice and justice that characterized Paul and Joyce’s lives. This award will acknowledge the work of an individual and/or organization that demonstrates the values on which Everyday Democracy was founded – voice, connection, racial equity, and communities that work for all.


Paul passed away just after this booklet was published, but the commitment and passion described in these pages continue to guide our work and have touched tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities.


"This isn't easy stuff, but it's stuff that society has to grapple with, the things that make a society capable of functioning."
- Paul Aicher

Our work has continued to grow and evolve, as our country and our democracy have faced new opportunities and challenges. We deepened our learning on structural racism and economic inequality through two large-scale evaluations of our work. That led to our commitment to use a racial equity lens in all our internal and external work. In 2008, the Study Circles Resource Center (the primary project of Paul's foundation) changed its name to Everyday Democracy to highlight the ultimate goal of all that we do. Today, we are working with leaders and organizations throughout the country to greatly expand communities’ access to our resources and coaching.


Paul’s ultimate vision was a democracy where people have regular opportunities to come together across divides to share honestly, listen to each other, have a voice in public decisions, and find ways to work together to create equitable communities. We are honored to work with you to carry out that vision.

We hope you enjoy this celebration of our history and work, and find inspiration, as we have, about how it can inform and inspire our efforts into the future.

We invite you to read through the commemorative re-issue, or you can download a PDF of the booklet:

Read more about the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award (nominations close June 15).

Sign Up for Email Updates!Wasn't that inspiring? Sign up for more stories like this one


Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.