O&B 2023 in Berlin aims to connect and resource movement-builders, frontline communities, public sector actors, artists, and democracy advocates working in diverse geographic and cultural contexts to better respond to the othering and division stoked by the anti-democratic far right—and ultimately move from merely defending flawed systems to re-envisioning new ones.
The agenda is designed for us to together explore questions such as:
- How might we renew democratic infrastructure to center justice and belonging in a time of heightened mistrust and fragmentation?
- How are gender and LGBTQ issues being wielded by the far right to stoke division and reduce trust in democratic systems?
- How might we come together in solidarity and across lines of difference to counter authoritarian forces that too often scapegoat marginalized groups and reduce trust in democracy and civic institutions?
O&B 2023 will bring together actors from different spheres of influence who share a broad commitment to both democracy and belonging, but who may have different ideological or subject matter priorities, approaches, or theories of change. In particular, we aim to connect people working on issues of social cohesion and democracy with movement leaders and activists who are centrally concerned with issues of marginalization and justice.
Our focus on belonging & democracy
Belonging, at least in its truest sense, means that all people have the right to make demands and co-create the structures and systems that impact their lives. Democracy in its most aspirational form grants all people the opportunity to engage and influence how our societies function.
But strained by the weight of mistrust, fragmentation, and divisive populism, democracies can seem increasingly unequipped to handle the complex and interwoven challenges of our time, from the worsening climate crisis to resulting forced migration. Perhaps worse, democratic systems have, in some cases, facilitated the exclusion of perceived "others" at the hands of dominant groups, despite the claim that democracy is the most just form of governance.
Yet the alternative to democracy is far worse: authoritarian populism, which relies on simplistic narratives of out-group scapegoating and the division of society into "us" vs "them" as easy answers to worsening global crises. The response of social justice movements and frontline communities must not be to cede democracy to the far right, but to assert structures, practices, and narratives that expand who belongs in quickly diversifying democratic societies.
Our first conference in Europe
O&B Berlin will be our first conference outside of the US, reflecting increased global interest in our belonging framework. O&B 2023 is an outgrowth of OBI's work in Europe through our Democracy & Belonging Forum to counter the strong global connections between authoritarian-populist movements and actors, and part of our ongoing work at OBI to offer a movement based on belonging and care for each other and our living planet.