Mihai Lupu is an ASAP board member and the founder of EduCab. His academic and practical focus is on harnessing the potential of various organizations, such as public libraries and community centers, within small to medium-sized communities to initiate, curate, and foster critical thinking-based knowledge, democratic practices, and exposure to diversity-focused contexts that contribute to enhancing community-oriented and civic engagement practices worldwide.
Through his work, Mihai demonstrates that in small communities, civic and democratic practices are already evident in everyday habits, customs and therefore behavior-change interventions in such places must include them.
He calls these practices small-scale democracies, and he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and also acting on the democracy distance, which refers to the gap between established democratic narratives and practices and citizens’ understanding of their local customs and practices as essentially democratic instances with civic value.
To facilitate this understanding, Mihai breaks down the concept of democracy into smaller units of indices and indicators that can make more sense for citizens in villages and small towns.
He demonstrates that such indices and indicators are easier to be regarded as having democratic value to people, if they are seen with their relevance into day-to-day actions and experiences, while providing a wider range of space for specific interactions at the local level, tackled by anchor institutions like public libraries. Additionally, Mihai expands the concept of community beyond the classic territorial approach and diasporas to include all those who contribute to and are connected to these communities.
Throughout his work on this topic, Mihai draws on academic and non-academic literature to open discussions with new questions and ways of tackling his ideas. He also uses various examples of interventions and results achieved through the EduCaB program and methodology, which he founded and continues to implement in over 400 communities worldwide, while relating them to existing practices and approaches.
…a library can promote democratic practices and the overall experience of democracy while capitalizing on existing resources.
Libraries are seen as miniature Agoras, contributing to the larger scale Agora by improving citizens’ well-being and quality of life through the way they relate to themselves and to each other. The questions and examples presented in his research aim to start a larger conversation among those who care about reviving communities and democratic practices in small communities, asking how much we do not use from what democracies can offer right now and how much a library can do to promote democratic practices and the overall experience of democracy while capitalizing on existing resources.
Since this exercise it’s just at the beginning, the larger scope being to capture the potential of all core local institutions and stakeholders to translate indicators of democracy into specific actions easily recognizable by citizens, he names his approach ‘Democracy within all policies’, this being an EduCaB concept and program, developed in partnership with Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP), Yale Global Justice Program, Kettering Foundation, Periphery Inc. and the network of public libraries and community centers supported through EduCaB.