Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award - 2022 Nominations OPENING SOON

Every year, Everyday Democracy recognizes standout community change agents —individuals, groups, and organizations whose work in their community exemplifies the values on which we were founded – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity, and community change.   

Based on the outstanding set of diverse nominees over the previous four years of this award, we will be presenting two types of awards this year: one honoring the work of an organization, group, or collective, and another celebrating individual leaders.

  • Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award ($10,000) will be awarded to (1) one state-wide, or community-based organization or collective with a sustained commitment to racial equity, voice for all, connection across difference and community change but oftentimes do not have the opportunity for this type of recognition.    

  • Civic Leadership Award ($2500) will be given to (2) two individuals who exemplify, in their community work, – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity, and community change.  No organizational affiliation is required for this award. 


Who comes to the top of your mind when you think about exceptional people or local organizations that create opportunities for people to talk to and listen to each other, work together for equitable communities, and help create vibrant communities that work for everyone, now, and in healthier times.

•    Maybe you know an organization or individual who, in 2022 brought their community together for dialogues to address racial inequities, and truly made a difference. 
•    Maybe you know someone who improved community policing, or helped to close the educational achievement gap in your town, city or region. 
•    Or maybe you know of a person, or group of people who have been heroic in addressing the COVID-19 crisis, by converting their dialogues online, or by evolving their practices to help those in their community who may be most vulnerable to this horrible disease.

Let them know how much you understand and appreciate their contribution to society by nominating them for the 2022 Aicher Award. 

For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked in communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides, racial equity, and widespread leadership and voice. 

Paul and Joyce Aicher’s generosity and creative genius have had a profound impact on individuals and organizations in every part of this country. Their passion and diligent effort inspired the dialogue guides, organizing and facilitating training, and community coaching that Everyday Democracy is so well known for delivering. In 2017, we launched the inaugural Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award to carry on their legacy after the passing of Joyce Aicher.

Our 2020 award winner was Points of Diversity in Roanoke, VA. Points of Diversity has worked in Roanoke for almost seven years to create a more diverse community by “connecting, engaging and [educating] in cross-cultural discussions and experiences.” 

“We have to learn to understand each other,” Katie Zawacki, Executive Director of Points of Diversity, explains. “We don’t have to agree, but we still have to have respect for each other. It’s about respecting human dignity.”

The Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award at a glance...

Award amount:

Nominations and applicant materials are due: 

Who is eligible:
State-wide, or community-based, organization or collective that are conducting community- level work in the U.S.

Award criteria:
Must embody the values of Paul and Joyce Aicher – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity and community change.

The Civic Leadership Award at a glance...

Award amount: two (2) awards of $2,500 

Nominations and applicant materials are due: TBD

Who is eligible: Individuals (16+) who are conducting community-level work in the U.S. 

Award criteria: Must embody the values of Paul and Joyce Aicher – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity and community change 

Nominations and application materials will be accepted later this yearSee below for full details about eligibility and the nomination process.


The recipient of the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award will receive $10,000 and the two recipients of the Civic Leadership Award will receive $2500 at the award reception. Finalists will receive one day of community assistance to help them implement Everyday Democracy’s principles into their community engagement work. 

Who is eligible

Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award: state-wide, or community-based, organizations or collectives conducting projects at the community level in the U.S. are eligible to be nominated. Organizations do not have to be a registered 501(c)3 and do not need to be affiliated with Everyday Democracy or its Dialogue to Change process to qualify.  

Civic Leadership Award: Individuals 16 years of age and older conducting projects at the community level in the U.S. Individuals do not need to be affiliated with an organization or Everyday Democracy’s Dialogue to Change process to qualify. 

Current Everyday Democracy employees and board members are excluded from being nominated.  People/organizations may not nominate themselves. If you wish to be considered for the award, please encourage a colleague or friend to nominate you.  

Award criteria

The award honors work that demonstrates Paul and Joyce Aicher’s values...

Voice for all

  • Creating opportunity for many voices to be truly heard and valued.
  • Building the capacity of existing community leaders to include others in community life.
  • Creating welcoming opportunities for meaningful civic participation for all people.
  • Actively including people in civic life who have often been marginalized, and providing ways for them to develop their leadership capacities.

 Connection across difference

  • Practicing the art of talking to and listening to people from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, and views.
  • Taking collective action that is grounded in relationships across divides.

 Racial equity

  • Addressing structural racism and racial/ethnic inequities through dialogue and collective action.
  • Creating welcoming opportunities for all kinds of people to engage in meaningful conversation and action about racial equity.   
  • Using racial equity as an entry point to help people understand and create other forms of equity – such as intergenerational, economic, and gender.

 Community change

  • Making dialogue a regular part of how a community works and, ultimately, of how our democracy works.
  • Showing the power of bridging all kinds of divides through civic participation that is aimed at meaningful transformation in people, institutions, community culture, and governance

The nomination process

Step 1: NOMINATION. Anyone may nominate any person or organization that meets the criteria for this award. You will need to provide contact information for yourself and your nominee, a short summary of their work, and a description of how they embody our values in a 500-1,000 word essay that provides examples of specifically what they have done.

Step 2: APPLICATION/SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION. We will confirm the nominations when they are received. Nominees will be asked to supplement their nomination with evidence of the things they have done that demonstrate how they exhibit our core values—a format and guidance for this submission will be provided. 

 We will confirm the nominations when they are received. Nominees will be asked to supplement their nomination with evidence of the things they have done that demonstrate how they exhibit our core values. Supplemental information is due by TBD.

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel put together by Everyday Democracy. Once a final decision is made, the winner and others will be notified.

The 2021 Aicher Award winner and Civic Leadership Award winners will be expected to attend an award reception in person or virtual. (Transportation to the reception and lodging will be provided if in person.) 


A brief history of Paul and Joyce Aicher

Paul J. AicherPaul J. Aicher’s motto, “Don’t just stand there, do something,” marked all that he did. Before founding the Study Circles Resource Center (now called Everyday Democracy) in 1989, he was a model for civic engagement. Shortly after graduating from Penn State, he participated in a discussion course which helped him find his voice in civic life and sparked his lifelong interest in helping others find their own.  He saw a direct connection between his early experiences as a participant and a facilitator and his later vision for embedding these kinds of opportunities into American political life and culture.  

Throughout his life, he spent his free time volunteering. Early in their marriage, he and his wife Joyce got involved with a refugee resettlement project in Illinois; Paul then served as president of the North Shore Human Relations Council. Back in Pennsylvania in the mid-1960s, he started the World Affairs Council of Berks County and led his neighbors in discussions of the “Great Decisions” guides published by the Foreign Policy Association. Through his long-time work and friendship with Homer Jack, an American Unitarian Universalist clergyman and social activist, Paul developed a passion for racial justice and international peace, both of which would inspire his later social action.   

In the 1970s, he devoted his energies to launching his company Technical Materials and raising four children with Joyce. But he always returned to activism. In the early 1980s, after moving to Pomfret, Connecticut, Paul joined the local anti-nuclear freeze movement. In 1982, he formed the Topsfield Foundation, which was renamed The Paul J. Aicher Foundation after Paul’s passing in 2002. It began with making grants to advance a number of causes: affordable housing; educating and engaging the public on international security issues; and networking grass-roots peace and justice groups across the U.S.  As it became an operating foundation, it focused all of its efforts on its current mission – to strengthen deliberative democracy and improve the quality of life in the United States. In the past twenty-five years, it has been best known through the work of its primary project, Everyday Democracy, which supports communities across the U.S. in implementing Paul’s vision of public dialogue that enables everyone to have a voice and be heard.

Joyce, who passed away in 2016, shared Paul’s commitment to civic engagement, community activism, and social justice. With her quiet strength and humor, she often worked behind the scenes to make the work of the Foundation possible. She also strengthened the local community through her numerous volunteer efforts. She and Paul shared a love of nature, books, and the arts and were self-effacing advocates of democratic values.

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.