Summer Fellows Program brings civic activists, policymakers to Stanford

Larry Diamond—Hoover Institution senior fellow, CDDRL democracy program coordinator, and former senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq—has just discussed causes and consequences of corruption and international efforts to control it with a room full of visiting fellows. This is not just a group of learned political scientists, however, and Diamond does not hesitate to follow a sophisticated piece of analysis with a hard-nosed, view-from-the-ground assessment. He has, for instance, just told the fellows what he thinks of a major development institution. (“I think the World Bank needs to be ripped apart and fundamentally restructured.”) He has extended the concept of a “resource curse” to include not just oil but also international assistance. (“In many countries, aid is like oil; it’s used for outside rents.”) He has recommended that institutions learn the “dance of conditionality” and exercise selectivity, choosing countries to invest in based on demonstrated performance. But the 27 fellows around the table know a thing or two about corruption. Most of them face it in their home countries; many of them have made fighting it part of their work. And almost all of their hands go up to tell Diamond that there is something he missed, or something he got right.

This year’s 27 Stanford Summer Fellows on Democracy and Development—outstanding civic, political, and economic leaders from developing democracies—were selected from more than 500 applicants to take part in the program, which FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) hosted July 30–August 17, 2007. They traveled to Stanford from 22 countries in transition, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And like their academic curriculum during the three-week program, which examines linkages among democracy, economic development, and the rule of law, their professional experiences and fields of study center on these three areas, assuring that each fellow brings a seasoned perspective to the program’s discussions.

“Should the United States promote democracy? Can the United States promote democracy?” The curriculum for the first week focused on defining the concepts of “democracy,” “development,” and the “rule of law” and identifying institutions that support democratic and market development. Using selected articles and book chapters as starting points for discussion, CDDRL Director Michael A. McFaul and Marc Plattner, National Endowment for Democracy vice-president for research and studies, began the weeklong module with an examination of what democracy is and what definition or definitions might apply to distinguish electoral democracy, liberal democracy, and competitive authoritarianism. Another question discussed was whether there was such a thing as Islamic democracy, Asian democracy, Russian democracy, or American democracy.

Faculty including Diamond, CDDRL associate director for research Kathryn Stoner, Stanford president emeritus and constitutional law scholar Gerhard Casper, Stanford Law School lecturer Erik Jensen, and economists Avner Greif and Seema Jayachandran “team-taught” individual sessions as the week progressed. Fellows and faculty discussed how to define and measure development, the role and rule of law in societies, how legal systems affect democratic development, constitutionalism, electoral systems, parliamentary versus presidential systems, horizontal accountability, and market development. Fellows worked in groups to discuss and present their conclusions about an issue to their colleagues, comparing experiences and sharing insights into how well political parties and parliaments constrained executive power and how civil society organizations contributed to democratic consolidation.

In addition to discussing their personal experiences with democracy promotion, economic development, and legal reform, fellows met with a broad range of practitioners, including USAID deputy director Maria Rendon Labadan, National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit Judge Pamela Rymer, IREX president Mark Pomar, Freedom House chairman and International Center on Nonviolent Conflict founding chair Peter Ackerman, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict president Jack DuVall, The Orange Revolution documentary filmmaker Steve York, and government affairs attorney Patrick Shannon. Guest speakers talked about their fieldwork, offered practical advice, and answered fellows’ questions.

This component grounded the classroom discussions in a practical context. “It was important for our visiting fellows to interact with American practitioners, both to learn about innovative techniques for improving democracy practices but also to hear about frustrations and failures that Americans also face in working to make democracy and democracy promotion work more effectively,” explained McFaul. “We Americans do not have all the answers and have much to learn from interaction with those in the trenches working to improve governance in their countries.”

As the program’s curriculum shifted to democratic and economic transitions for week two, McFaul and Stoner-Weiss balanced the structure of the classroom with guest lecturers, a documentary film premiere, and field trips to Google headquarters and San Francisco media organizations to put into practical context the components discussed theoretically in the classroom. The field trip to San Francisco included a session with KQED Forum executive producer Raul Ramirez, a briefing with the editorial board at the San Francisco Chronicle, and a discussion of links between violence against women and children and poverty, health, and security at the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

“We are building an extraordinary community of democratic activists and officials who have a deeper understanding of the types of institutions that secure freedom, control corruption, and foster sustainable development.” The third week’s curriculum looked at international and domestic efforts to promote democracy, development, and the rule of law. This integrative module drew on the teaching caliber of Stephen D. Krasner (FSI senior fellow), Peter B. Henry (Graduate School of Business), Allen S. Weiner and Helen Stacy (Stanford Law School), and Nicholas Hope (Stanford Center for International Development) as well as Casper, Jensen, McFaul, and Stoner-Weiss. Through case studies and, in particular, comparison of successes and failures in the fellows’ own experiences, faculty and fellows explored and assessed international strategies for promoting rule of law, reconciliation of past human rights abuses, democracy, and good governance. The discussions, occasionally contentious, circled in on a set of central questions: Should the United States promote democracy? Can the United States promote democracy? What are the links between democracy and increasing the rule of law, controlling corruption, rebuilding societies shattered by massive human rights violations, and promoting good governance?

Despite the intellectual rigor of the coursework and discussion, and the exploration of practical applicability with guest speakers and field trips, the Stanford Summer Fellows on Democracy and Development Program was designed as much to stimulate connections among field practitioners and to provide a forum in which to exchange ideas. “Through the summer fellows program, we are building an extraordinary community of democratic activists and officials who have a deeper understanding of the types of institutions that secure freedom, control corruption, and foster sustainable development, and who are keeping in touch with us and with one another,” said Diamond. “When I meet our ‘alumni’ fellows in subsequent years, they speak movingly of the bonds they formed and the insights they gained in these three fast-paced weeks.”

To ensure they fulfill their goal of building a small but robust global network of civic activist and policymakers in developing countries, CDDRL launched a Summer Fellows Program Alumni Newsletter. The newsletter is based on an interactive website that will allow the center to strengthen its network of leaders and civic activists and facilitate more groundbreaking policy analysis across academic fields and geographic regions, the results of which will be promptly fed back to its activist alumni in a virtual loop of scholarship and policymaking. “We envision the creation of an international network of emerging political and civic leaders in countries in transition,” said Stoner-Weiss, “who can share experiences and solutions to the very similar problems they and their countries face.”


A producer and pre s ent er for SW Radio Africa (London), Violet Gonda was a Stanford Summer Fellow on Democracy and Development in 2006, the same year her station was named the International Station of the Year by the Association of International Broadcasters. "CDDRL brings together a cross-section of people from different backgrounds, different careers," Gonda said. "Politicians, lawyers, activists ... all in the same room. It is an amazing group of people."

Banned from returning to her home country because of her journalism work at the radio station-"we are welcome in Zimbabwe but only in the prisons"-Gonda "literally eat[s], breathe[s], and dream[s] Zimbabwe." The summer fellows program, she said, gave her a broad perspective on what's going on in other countries; "it is so intensive ... you can really compare and contrast democracy on every continent." One thing Gonda found is that "when you look at these leaders, you'd think they all were born of the same mother ... and the ways people respond to these crises are the same."

Gonda had such a positive experience at Stanford that she decided to apply for, and was accepted to, the prestigious John S. Knight Fellowships for journalists for the academic year 2007-08. "It's always been Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe," she said. "Now I finally have time to sit down and read a book, write an article, go to seminars, sharpen my skills." She is not exactly sitting still however. In December she gave a presentation on Zimbabwe's political situation for the Center on African Studies, and will also be discussing Zimbabwe at the Palo Alto Rotary Club and the Bechtel International Center. "Media in America does not have a lot of international news, particularly on Africa," Gonda said. "So it's a good opportunity to talk about Zimbabwe, and I will take advantage of it."

She is also working on developing new content for SW Radio Africa and plans to interview FSI scholars she met through the summer fellows program so "We are building an extraordinary community of democratic activists and officials who have a deeper understanding of the types of institutions that secure freedom, control corruption, and foster sustainable development." that Zimbabweans can understand what is going on in different countries. Close contact with program alumni means that she has friends and colleagues in other parts of that world who can be called on for their perspective on situations. While SW Radio Africa's mission is "to record and to expose" developments in Zimbabwe, Gonda explained, "it's good to compare, to show people we are not alone, that this is happening elsewhere."