Democratizing NOVA

Democratizing NOVA Image

The Northern Virginia region is changing rapidly. What kind of region will this become in 10 years? Whose interests and what purposes will our region serve? Who will decide? And how can universities play a positive role in the process?

Democratizing NOVA (DNOVA) is a community-engaged civic research project dedicated to building community and deepening economic and political democracy across Northern Virginia (colloquially referred to as "NOVA"). Inspired by alternative models of regional democratization such as Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives, Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi, and Madison, Wisconsin’s many housing, consumer, and worker cooperatives, DNOVA seeks to hasten the transition of Northern Virginia to a society that is truly sustainable, democratic, and just.

To that end, our team has been developing the DNOVA Database, a comprehensive portrait of past and current efforts to increase the participation and ownership of ordinary people in their institutions and communities from the Shenandoah and the Potomac. Employing cutting-edge research techniques, we document and analyze organizational histories, missions, activities, and partnerships of projects in 16 categories, including: 

  • Pro-democracy advocacy organizations;
  • Participatory alternatives to policing, alternatives to war;
  • Anchor institutions;
  • Campus-community collaborations that further community development and democratization;
  • Worker, consumer, resident, and community cooperatives and credit unions;
  • Community-controlled currency, exchange, trading, and supply chain management systems;
  • Home rule and community rights laws; 
  • Voter initiatives, referenda, and other forms of direct democracy in elections;
  • Expansion of the franchise, citizenship, residency and personhood;
  • Exercise of Indigenous sovereignty for system transition; 
  • Community-owned and operated media, media channels, production, content;
  • Mutual aid organizations;
  • Open government policies and other transparency reforms; 
  • Community property, land trusts, and commons;
  • Participatory forms of public administration and governance; 
  • Publicly and/or community-owned and operated services, utilities, banking, and enterprises.

From this research, we have been developing and implementing plans for long-term campus-community alliances, community development, and democratization. In 2022, we organized the Democratizing NOVA Summit,  bringing together community members, academics, and other stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities facing our region. At the summit workshop, attendees were able to take part in interactive activities, such as mapping exercises, data visualization, and hands-on experience with research methods and tools.

To watch highlights of the 2022 DNOVA Summit, click here.

To learn more about the DNOVA Council, click here.

To learn more about DNOVA, participate in our current activities and initiatives, or contribute to the DNOVA Database, please contact us.