Constitution Cafés are knowledge-based discussions about the Constitution, each of which addresses a specific constitutional issue.
Constitution Cafés are designed to break away from the dynamics of the large lecture hall, and the invisible ‘wall of experts' of the panel discussion. Cafés create spaces where individuals and communities can become active participants in a dialogue about our democracy.
Constitution Cafés foster a climate of reflection, inquiry, and knowledge building, and depart from the prevalent simplification of issues - the dichotomy of left/right / blue/red/ pro/con, in favor of complexity, and deeper understanding.
MDC Constitution Cafés adhere to the following guidelines:
Facilitation - Constitution Cafés are facilitated by a member of a community in cooperation with constitution talent, community members who have experience and engagement with the topic. Talent can be scholars, lawyers, community activists and organizers. Most Constitution Cafés involve a facilitator and constitution talent.
Time Frame - Typically, Constitution Cafés run two hours. Workday Constitution Cafés run from 50 minutes to hour in order to accommodate students and workers lunchtimes. The discussion leader/s present information for the first segment, typically 30 minutes, after which the floor is open to questions, discussions, listening, sharing. Thus, the bulk of the time is devoted to an interactive discussion after a shorter formal presentation. Through this design, Constitution Cafés platform both formal information presented and unscripted public contemplation.
Seating - Whenever possible, a circular seating arrangement, or a variation thereof is used. Linear rows of seating are avoided. This seating arrangement bolsters a more animated exchange among participants.
Locations – Constitution Cafés take place in cooperation with the community spaces which host them. These can be libraries, theaters, dance halls, restaurants, bars, cafés, parks, food courts, community rooms. Cafés can also take place in living rooms and kitchens.
Constitutions — Special MDC editioned copies of the U.S. Constitutions are distributed free of charge.
Accessibility – Constitution Cafés are free and open to the public.
Image above: "The Constitutional Limits on the Police Use of Force", Constitution Café led by Alphonse Gerhardstein, Founder and President, The Prison Reform Advocacy Center, at the Contemporary Dance Theatre, Cincinnati Ohio.