New opportunity: Institutional Partners for A Deliberation of Young People Across the United States

December 3, 2020

Shaping Our Future:

A Deliberation of Young People Across the United States

Call for institutional partners

The Haas Center for Public Service and Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and the Berggruen Institute seeks 50 campus partners to collaborate on a joint Deliberative Polling experiment with 18-29 year-olds across the country. Modeled on the America in One Room event in 2019, this two-day event, to be held May 15-16, 2021, will involve 1,000 college students across diverse regions and postsecondary institutions, engaging them in deliberations on some of the most pressing challenges facing the country. Over two days, participants will deliberate in small groups on a customized online deliberation platform, considering a range of proposals on issues including the environment, citizenship, and policing. Participants will also hear directly from political leaders and issue area experts in plenary sessions. The goal of Deliberative Polling is not to reach consensus on specific proposals, but to understand the policy preferences of a representative sample of informed young people once they have had an opportunity to deliberate with others. Shaping Our Future will be the largest, national deliberative event ever carried out among young people in the U.S. and comes at a critical time when our country faces multiple crises amidst deepening political polarization.

Expectations and benefits

Campus partners must commit to recruiting a random, representative sample of 25-50 participants from their student body. An institutional stipend as well as a small stipend for student participants will be provided; these institutional grants will range from $2,000-$4,000 per campus depending on the number of student participants. Faculty from participating institutions will also be given access to de-identified data from the event, including pre/post survey results. Participating institutions will also receive a final report on the event, including data specific to their campus.


At this critical moment, the U.S. faces a daunting set of overlapping crises: a global pandemic, anti-Black violence, global climate change, and increased political polarization and the deterioration of democratic norms. College students – more than two-thirds of whom are young people ages 18-29 – have a particular stake in each of these critical issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has infected 13m Americans and killed more than 260,000, disrupting the economy as a whole and the education system in particular. Ongoing police violence against unarmed Black citizens has sparked nationwide protests and mobilized a broad base of Americans in advancing calls for racial justice. Both of these unfold amidst the ongoing threat of global climate change, the consequences of which will most dramatically affect young adults in the decades to come. Our democratic system of government is designed to address collective challenges like these, yet increased political polarization and the deterioration of democratic norms threaten to alienate young people from the democratic process at precisely the moment when they are most urgently needed. Addressing the crises we face requires democratic deliberation, but college students have few opportunities to engage with others to deliberate on the complex policy choices we face, especially across lines of difference – whether political, socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, regional, or religious.

Shaping Our Future will invite a random, representative sample of people ages 18-29 from diverse postsecondary institutions to participate in a two-day, online Deliberative Polling experiment designed to foster democratic deliberation on important policy debates. Deliberative Polling is a structured approach to democratic deliberation that involves small group deliberations, plenary sessions with experts in the field, and a balanced set of resources and materials, with a structured sequence of activities designed to foster greater understanding of different policy positions. The event will be planned, facilitated, and the results analyzed by a group of Stanford students enrolled in a Deliberative Democracy Practicum course, offered through Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD). The event will be hosted using a robust, online deliberation platform developed by CDD. The platform uses an automated moderator, which enables us to efficiently organize small groups without the logistics or cost of human moderators. The automated moderator maintains civility in the discussion, encourages equitable participation by all participants, asks participants to consider arguments from both sides of all proposals, and provides a structured collaboration phase for participants to deliberate and seek common ground. In between their small group discussions, there will be plenary sessions where all participants will gather with experts to answer questions developed in their small groups. This automated platform has been used successfully for a campus-wide Deliberative Poll at Stanford (May 2020), a city-wide Deliberative Poll in Tokyo (April 2020), in Hong Kong (July 2020), and for the Bank of America/CloseUp Student Leaders Program (July 2020).

Shaping Our Future will engage 1,000 student participants drawn from 50 postsecondary institutions representing a diversity of regions, communities, and institution types (community colleges, public universities, private colleges and universities, religious institutions, military academies, Hispanic serving institutions, Tribal Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Each partnering institution will invite a random, representative sample of students to participate in the online Deliberative Polling experiment, with the goal of forming small groups that include, for example, a cadet from the Air Force Academy, a community college student in the Central Valley of California, a student from an HBCU in Atlanta, a student from a tribal college in New Mexico, and a student from a small liberal arts college in the northeast. We believe the diversity of participating schools will enrich student learning, deepen democratic deliberation, and yield greater perspective-taking by all participants.

The impact of Shaping Our Future will extend far beyond the event itself. Participants will complete surveys prior to and after the event, providing data that practicum students and faculty from participating institutions can analyze to better understand the effects of deliberation on political polarization, policy understanding, and political engagement. Shaping Our Future will offer researchers the most diverse and detailed picture to date of the views of college students on pressing national issues.


How to apply

We invite interested institutions to join one of the informational sessions below. Campuses can indicate their interest here through January 11, 2021.

    Info session 1: Tuesday, Dec 8, 11:00am-12:00pm (pacific), RSVP here

    Info session 2: Thursday, Dec 10 12:00-1:00pm (pacific), RSVP here

    Info session 3: Thursday, Jan 7 10:00-11:00am (pacific), RSVP here

Institutions can express interest by completing this form by January 11, 2021. 

If you have any questions or want to set up another time to discuss, please contact Luke Terra at lterra {at} stanford(.)edu.

Planning timeline

November 30    Campus recruitment begins

December 8    First Information Session, 12:00-1:00pm (pacific)

December 10    Second Information Session, 12:00-1:00pm (pacific)

January 7    Third Information Session, 10:00-11:00am (pacific)

January 11    Completed interest forms due

January 18    Invitations sent to selected campuses

January 26    Logistics session 1, 12:00-1:00pm (pacific)

February 18    Logistics session 2, 10:00-11:00am (pacific)

March 9    Logistics session 3, 10:00-11:00am (pacific)

April 9        Recruitment begins; campuses send invitations to students

April 26    Participants receive pre-survey

April 27    Logistics session 4, 10:00-11:00am (pacific)

May 15-16    Shaping Our Stanford event

May 16    Participants receive post-survey

May 18    Event debrief with campus liaisons

June 3        Presentation of results