About Democratizing NOVA

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Democratizing NOVA (DNOVA) is a community-engaged civic research project of Next System Studies and the Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) at Mason dedicated to deepening democracy in northern Virginia ("NOVA"). We engage with efforts to build community, economic, and political democracy in northern Virginia.

To this end, our team is looking for current and past initiatives in and around northern Virginia that increase the participation and ownership of ordinary people of the institutions and communities where they work, learn, eat, sleep, play, pray, and otherwise live their lives.

If you are aware of such an initiative, please contact us

Examples might include:

  • campus-community collaborations that further community development and democratization;
  • worker, consumer, resident, and community cooperatives and credit unions;
  • publicly and/or community owned and operated services, utilities, banking, and enterprises; 
  • community controlled currency, exchange, trading, and supply chain management systems;
  • community property, land trusts, and commons;
  • community owned and operated media;
  • exercise of Indigenous sovereignty for future generations;
  • participatory alternatives to policing and militarism;
  • participatory forms of public administration and governance;
  • open government policies and other transparency reforms;
  • expansion of the franchise, citizenship, residency, and personhood;
  • voter initiatives, referenda, and other forms of direct democracy in elections;
  • mutual aid networks and organizations;
  • home rule and community rights laws; and many others.

By taking an inventory of current and past initiatives in these and related areas, we hope to gain a sense of present actual and potential ingredients for achieving a broader systemic democratization of the political economy of northern Virginia. This in turn should allow us to develop and implement plans for collaborative research and long-term campus-community alliances leading to regional democratization.

Democratizing NOVA is inspired by the advancements of transition efforts across the United States that present a number of alternative models for regional democratization. These include institutional models, such as the Evergreen Cooperatives, which form the body of what scholars have called “The Cleveland Model” for bringing to bear the resources of anchor institutions such as hospitals, universities, and local governments in driving cooperative economic development and neighborhood stabilization. They also include movement models, such as Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and other such projects linked together through the Solidarity Economy Network, New Economy Coalition, the Transition movement, and other networks. And they include organic models involving adaptation, evolution, and the growth of a cooperative culture and knowledge base in a particular region, as seen in Madison, Wisconsin’s worker cooperatives, housing and consumer cooperatives, municipal and academic support for coops, credit union movement, CSAs, and more.