Cultivating Youth Activism

A global conversation in a time of democratic crisis

The virtual conference will connect youth activists with civics practitioners and scholars from around the world in order to discuss the best practices of youth advocacy and challenges facing democracy in the current moment. Bringing together stakeholders from all corners of the world, including Thailand, India, South Sudan, Paraguay, and more, these two days will foster connections between disparate movements, inspire greater efficacy in the global fight for democracy and justice, and set the stage for future collaboration and conversations


Additional Information

Presented by the SNF Agora Institute with support from the Global Network for Youth Action.


Panel 1: Youth Activism in the Time of COVID-19

This is a moment of crisis in democracy, but also one in which young people around the world are meeting with passion, action, and activism. The pandemic has exacerbated long-held inequalities, and many governments around the world are consolidating power and weakening democracy and democratic norms. There may never have been a time which calls for youth activism more, but also in which youth activism is harder to actually execute. What does activism look like in pandemic? How are activists responding in a world in which in-person gatherings are limited and resources across the board run dry? How are they pushing back against repressive regimes?  On this panel, we hear from the innovators themselves.  What can organizers learn from their successes?  Are there any tools that have worked especially well for activists at this time?

Panel 2: The Imperative for Racial and Economic Justice

The recent months have shined light on structural inequities that have wracked societies across the globe for decades.  Since the killing of George Floyd, the recognition of systemic racism in institutions of government and society has rippled outward from North America to the rest of the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has had an especially pronounced effect on those of lower socioeconomic status, who may not be able to afford top-of-the-line medical care or the ability to work from home. This panel will discuss the barriers to entry for youth of certain racial or socioeconomic backgrounds in activism, provide calls to action for movements of racial and economic justice, and explore whether there can be a unified vision for racial and economic justice that transcends national context and jurisdiction.

Trump vs. Biden vs. Media and Manipulation

Part of our "SNF Agora Conversations: Election 2020" series

A month before election day, political journalists are struggling to cover a campaign with more than the usual share of falsehood, exaggeration and vitriol. Russian intelligence agencies are meddling once again, with China and Iran following close behind. Social media giants are slow to catch the disinformation or timid about intervening. How can voters sort fact from fiction and make an informed choice?


  • Jackie Calmes is an editor with the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau. She has covered national politics, the White House, Congress, and presidential campaigns for more than 30 years. She covered the Obama administration for The New York Times and for 18 years before that worked in The Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau, ending as the chief political correspondent.
  • Astead W. Herndon is a national political reporter for The New York Times. He was previously a Washington-based political reporter and a City Hall reporter for The Boston Globe.
  • Peter Pomerantsev is an SNF Agora Senior Fellow and co-director of the Arena initiative, a research project dedicated to overcoming the challenges of digital-era disinformation and polarization. His latest book, This is Not Propaganda, was released in August 2019 and was a Times Book of the Year.
  • Scott Shane, moderator, is an SNF Agora Visiting Fellow. He was a reporter in The New York Times Washington bureau for 15 years, where he was part of a team that won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for their coverage of Russian hacking, and another for their reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.



Social Studies Knowledge Map™ Introductory Webinar

A tool to equip young people with the political knowledge, political skills, habits of engagement, and civil tolerance that alone sustain democratic society.

How can schools help young people become active, knowledgeable citizens?

The nation’s schools are back in session—just in time for the most contentious election cycle in recent memory. Now more than ever, we need to equip young people with the political knowledge, political skills, habits of engagement, and civil tolerance that alone sustain democratic society.

The Institute for Education Policy and the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University have designed a suite of tools to help policymakers, school leaders, and teachers accomplish this task—here, here, and here.

On September 29th we will release our latest resource: the Social Studies Knowledge Map™.  This new tool allows us to assess whether a given social studies curriculum offers systematic, robust knowledge building across students’ K-12 journey. We also evaluate whether the curriculum provides multiple perspectives on a given topic, and whether the teachers’ materials encourage an open classroom climate.  The result is a landscape analysis that leaders can use for continuous curricular improvement in this critical subject.

Please join Peter Levine, associate dean of academic affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow; Janise Lane, executive director of teaching and learning at Baltimore City Public Schools; and Ashley Berner, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy for this discussion.

What will the webinar cover?

The Institute will provide an in-depth introduction to the Social Studies Knowledge Map™.

Who should attend and who will find this information valuable?

District and state education leaders; charter and private school principals and directors; and educational non-profits and foundations.


SNF Agora Training: Presidential Debates Past & Present

A virtual primer on the history of U.S. presidential debates and how lessons from the past can be applied to the 2020 election.

What are the origins of presidential debates in the United States? How have past debates contributed to the victory or defeat of presidential candidates? What are some of the important make or break moments in a presidential debate? What can this history teach us about how to watch debates during our current election season?

We will explore these questions and more during the virtual workshop, “SNF Agora Training: Presidential Debates Past & Present.” Media consultant and documentarian, Dana Wolfe, who was the founding executive producer of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series (2011-2017) will guide us through the history of U.S. presidential debates by looking at the role of technology and debate in American democracy. Participants will analyze different debates and techniques used by the candidates and learn what to look for during the first debate on September 29th. This workshop will serve as a primer in advance of the fall 2020 presidential debates and will train participants on how to watch opposing candidates compete through the art of debate. We will be joined by guest speaker Sara Just, executive producer of the PBS NewsHour, who has extensive experience producing and prepping moderators for debates on a national stage.

This virtual event will be a small, interactive workshop limited to Johns Hopkins University students. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions, and will be encouraged to do so.


  • Dana Wolfe, Media Consultant & Documentarian, Founding Executive Producer of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series
  • Sara Just, Executive Producer of the PBS NewsHour, WETA Senior Vice President

Four Threats to American Democracy

Part of our webcast series, "SNF Agora Conversations: Election 2020"


Webcast recording

As we head into the final weeks of the 2020 election season, it feels like our democracy is facing an existential crisis. In their new book, Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, authors Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman map out five times in U.S. history that our democracy was in serious crisis, and they identify four characteristics of democratic disruption: political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power. We’ve survived these threats in the past—but never all at once. What lessons can past crises teach us about navigating a path forward?


  • Robert Lieberman, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University
  • Suzanne Mettler, John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University
  • Peter Levine, moderator, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life, and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow


Four Threats cover image

Buy Four Threats from the Ivy Bookshop


SNF Agora Training: Women, Politics, and Your Right to Participate

A interactive workshop focusing on ensuring women’s right and ability to participate in electoral politics

Elections are a cornerstone of democratic governance. They are how citizens choose their leaders and make their voices heard. Citizens compete to hold office, and manage or monitor electoral processes to ensure they are transparent, accountable, and inclusive. These powers are enshrined in international commitments and national laws, and are considered fundamental human rights. Yet, too often around the world—including here in the United States—to claim these rights, women must overcome barriers that men do not have to contend with.

As part of SNF Agora’s “Remember, Reflect, and Recommit” conference, and in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute, this workshop will explore the political, legal, social, economic, and cultural barriers standing in the way of women’s full participation in the electoral process. Participants will learn why gender equality is important for democratic elections, key strategies for addressing barriers to women’s electoral participation, and how elections should be evaluated to determine whether or not they meet democratic standards.

This will be an interactive, hands-on workshop. We will use the Zoom webinar format, including Zoom breakout rooms for small group work. Participants will be asked to respond to questions and engage in dialogue within their small groups.


About NDI:

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that has supported democratic institutions and practices in every region of the world for more than three decades. Since its founding in 1983, NDI and its local partners have worked to establish and strengthen political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and promote citizen participation, openness, and accountability in government. 

SNF Agora Training: Your Story, Your Life

A workshop in personal storytelling geared to support women to become protagonists in their own life stories.

As part of “Remember, Reflect, Recommit,” SNF Agora Institute’s virtual conference to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, Stoop Storytelling co-founder Laura Wexler leads an interactive virtual experience in which you’ll discover the evidence-based power of stories as a universal tool of communication. In celebration of our conference theme, this training will focus particularly on becoming the protagonist of your own tale. 

 The two-hour session will start with a lecture/discussion on the power and principles of personal storytelling. After a short break, participants will break into small groups for structured story-sharing sessions, then reconvene to wrap up.  

Participants will share a personal story about a time they acted as a protagonist in their own life, taking action to solve a problem, right a wrong, face a challenge, achieve a goal, whether in the personal, familial, or community sphere. 

This will be an interactive, hands-on workshop. We will use the Zoom webinar format, including Zoom breakout rooms for small group work.  

This training is free, but space is limited and registration is required.  




Women Working Across the Atlantic

Webcast recording

Despite some high-profile exceptions, including three female secretaries of state, women have historically been underrepresented in U.S. foreign policy and national security. In this discussion, women who have served in high-level roles will share their experiences working to ensure U.S. safety and to foster democracy around the world; the specific role they have played in protecting and promoting women’s rights internationally; and why it’s so important to include women in our country’s efforts abroad.

Women Working Across the Aisle

Part of Virtual Conference Series Remember, Reflect, Recommit: Celebrating Women's Suffrage

Webcast recording

One necessity of a functioning democracy is the ability for people—citizens, elected officials, and other leaders alike—to talk and work across divides. Women leaders, in turns out, have a history of intentionally reaching out and creating bonds with their female colleagues. This panel will explore the unique perspective women bring to leadership positions, including in how they craft policy, how they create environments where other women can succeed, and how women working together may help to heal our current political divides.

Women Leading the Fight for Civil Rights

Part of Virtual Conference Series Remember, Reflect, Recommit: Celebrating Women's Suffrage

Webcast recording

Women regularly outpace men in voter registration and election turnout, giving them an edge at the polls and a loud voice in electoral politics. But even before they had the right to vote, women—including women of color—played a vital role in shaping our democracy. And they continue to do so today, using other forms of civic engagement to effect large-scale social change-from suffragists and civil rights activists fighting for equal rights, to women journalists exposing abuse and corruption. This conversation will explore the many ways that women past and present have used their voices-through writing, agitating, and organizing-to profoundly influence our democracy.