The DEMOS process began in 2005 inspired by the Nordic Power and Democracy studies carried out in recent years. It involves non-formal adult education organisations as well as research and has the ambition to develop and disseminate debate, practice and methods on developing analysis on democracy and promoting ways of active citizenship, namely as deliberative democracy.
The DEMOS opening conference taking place in Denmark, February 2006, gave way to a broad inclusive discussion process that continued in local round tables and in organisations and seminars and conferences on the Dimensions of Democracy in the Nordic countries throughout the year.
During DEMOS 2006 three conferences have been held and supplemented by written presentations and recommendations for the national debates in the Nordic countries in the shape of discussion papers for the round tables.
The round tables and the national projects on democracy and non-formal adult education have made the process alive and disseminated the process. The national policy inputs have been generated as a result of this sub-process. The policies are recommendations on how to improve Nordic non-formal adult education.
The ambition has been to create a Nordic Think Tank which in policy and practice would relate to the recent research within the Nordic Power and Democracy studies and include the pedagogical and practical competences of non formal adult education.
The goal has been to produce a white book to initiate new ways and methods in the public debate on these matters and in order to inspire and involve ever more organisations in developing methods to promote active citizenship and deliberative democracy.
The DEMOS anthology has been published in 2007. It is a good resource book for discussing the questions of sustainable development, integration, political participation, citizenship, flexible learning, and others. It is also a material for reflection and development within the non-formal adult education sector. As several of the DEMOS-process lecturers and authors of the articles point out, the non-formal adult education can run the risk of becoming an authority by performing the state allotted tasks or become commercialised by responding to the market demands.
Only a minority of the participants of non-formal adult education would claim that they "attend" democracy. They attend language courses, lectures and a lot of other things. During the last couple of years activation and social work, almost to the point of treatment, have been lucrative and important activities of many educational associations.
The ideological foundation promises that "folkeoplysning" work socially and politically in order to provide the basis for democracy, active citizenship, lifelong learning and sustainable development.
If non-formal adult education still is to contribute to the strengthening of social capital and basic trust in society, it has to continuously display and brand its qualities. Non-formal adult education must question its own importance and remain self-critical regarding its practice and independence from the government and the local authorities as the assigners. If this is not possible, there is a risk that the waters between state, market, and civil society become the Bermuda triangle of non-formal adult education ("folkeoplysning").
The ambitions of the project have not been fully achieved yet. DEMOS is still on its way as an educational process and think tank and by producing the anthology it requests the Nordic educational associations to continue the work locally in order to strengthen social capital and develop ways to debate and methods to increase active citizenship.
What is the next step of the process? When adult educators hold the anthology for the first time and have just read a couple of inspiring articles, they should consider how they can put it into action and debate in the local educational association where the anthology can be turned into a live continuing debate on active citizenship, power and democracy.
The anthology is easy to use as documentation for study groups. Each chapter is ambitious in content and scope and they can all constitute a basis for general reflections and debate in relation to their own subject.
Important references to research and development efforts on democracy during the last ten years as well as the anthology can be found on www.nordvux.net.