Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award - Now Accepting 2020 Nominations

The Nominations Process Extended for the 2020 Aicher Award!!

Every year, Everyday Democracy recognizes a standout community change agent —a person or organization whose work in their community exemplifies the values on which we were founded – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity, and community change.  
The Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award provides recognition and a $10,000 award to an individual or organization in the U.S. whose achievements inspire us and can be lifted up for many others to aspire to.

The Nominations Process began February 17th, and then our whole world began to change in addressing a global pandemic.  So we are extending the deadline for nominations to September 1st.

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 2019 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 2020 Aicher Award. Nominations are being accepted between February 17th and September 1st.

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 2019 award winners were Arthur Johnson and Happy Johnson, who have been working together at the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) in New Orleans for almost a decade, combining citizen engagement with environmental science to create equitable development and policy on climate resilience. According to Martha McCoy, Executive Director of Everyday Democracy, “there are many others across our country and globe who are facing the inequitable effects of climate change and want to tackle it through democratic ways of working. Arthur Johnson and Happy Johnson provide inspirational models of the kind of leadership we need, so that we can address critical climate issues in inclusive, sustainable ways.” 

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

Award amount:

Nominations due: 

Who is eligible:
Individuals (16+), coalitions, or organizations

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

Our 2018 award winner was Beth A. Broadway, President of InterFaith Works of Central New York, who has worked for more than 40 years as a force for justice, raising voice to issues of oppression and advancing racial and social equity through the process of dialogue and action. Her racial equity work has directly impacted thousands of individuals and families and has markedly improved Syracuse and surrounding communities.

Nominations are due on September 1, 2020. See below for full details about eligibility and the nomination process.

We can’t wait to see your nominations!


The recipient of the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award will receive $10,000 at the award reception in December 2020. Finalists will receive one day of community assistance to help them implement Everyday Democracy’s principles into their community engagement work.

Who is eligible

Individuals 16 years of age and older, coalitions, and organizations 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. 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

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. Send this completed nomination form to and cc the nominee. The deadline for nominations was April 15, 2020 and has now been extended to September 1, 2020.

Download the nomination form.

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 September 1, 2020, at 11:59pm ET. 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 2020 Aicher Award winner will be expected to attend the award reception in December. (Transportation to the reception and lodging will be provided.)

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.