Who We Are

IDEA: The Institute for Democratic Education in America is a non profit organization based in Jackson, Mississippi. We collaborate with students, educators, families, and communities to advocate and build capacity for education equity and racial justice. While Jackson is our home base, we also work with partners and communities around the United States and in Puerto Rico.

What We Do

IDEA’s work aims to bridge conversations and promote action around racial justice and equity, youth voice, place-based education, sovereignty, and systems change.

We know that powerful change is possible when we not only have good ideas but also move those ideas into effective action. Driven by this insight, we focus our attention on Capacity Building and Community Collaboration.

Values

IDEA’s efforts are grounded in 6 core values that impact everything we do:

  1. Leading with racial justice and equity at center
  2. Intentional power building in communities
  3. Responsible collaboration and leadership
  4. Centering humility as foundational to our work and relationships
  5. Embodying love and spirit
  6. Honoring humanity over agenda

Who We Are

IDEA: The Institute for Democratic Education in America is a non profit organization based in Jackson, Mississippi. We collaborate with students, educators, families, and communities to advocate and build capacity for education equity and racial justice. While Jackson is our home base, we also work with partners and communities around the United States and in Puerto Rico.

IDEA was founded in 2010 by educators, parents, and organizers who saw the need to change the narrative and practice of education towards learning that is relevant to young people and communities. A core belief was that the best way to effect widespread change is to collaborate with and raise up the voices of youth, educators, parents, and community leaders.

Since 2015 IDEA has been rooted in Jackson, Mississippi, where we collaborate with partner organizations and the community to support and strengthen public education in the city. Meanwhile we have continued to engage across the United States and in Puerto Rico to change the narrative, practice, and policy around public education, realizing the power of local­-national-international connections to support local efforts and contribute to the broad movement for education justice, racial equity, and sovereignty.

Our work takes many forms, often emerging out of community needs that surface in the path forward for equitable and high-quality education for all. If you are interested in how our work might look, we encourage you to navigate around our website.

You can also reach out directly at info@democraticeducation.org

What We Do

IDEA’s work aims to bridge conversations and promote action around racial justice and equity, youth voice, place-based education, sovereignty, and systems change.

We know that powerful change is possible when we not only have good ideas but also move those ideas into effective action. Driven by this insight, we focus our attention on Capacity Building and Community Collaboration.

Capacity Building
IDEA contributes to the growing capacity of this social movement united within the framework of racial equity, social justice, and sovereignty. We believe that capacity building is essentially about people, and that the future of equity-based public education must be informed by the needs, vision, heart, and soul of the communities whom it serves.

Community Collaboration
We partner with people and organizations committed to equity and racial justice, place-based and community-based education, culturally-affirming social and emotional learning, youth engagement, systems change, and sovereignty.

Within these frameworks, our Core Activities are:

  • Partnering with community-based organizations on place-based organizing
  • Coordinating learning experiences that support work toward equity & sovereignty
  • Engaging in narrative change efforts that support transformative change in education practice and policy

For clear examples of how our work takes shape, use any of the linked images shown in this section or access our “Where We Work” section in the main navigation.

Jackson

Across The US

Puerto Rico

Values

Leading with racial justice and equity

Leading with racial justice and equity at center by recognizing the entrenched systemic racism and vast inequity that has long permeated every aspect of society and engaging in efforts to dismantle that system and work towards an anti-racist and equitable vision of education and society.

Responsible collaboration and leadership

Responsible collaboration and leadership guided by a dedication to centering authentic community voice at the core of our work, remaining accountable to the communities with whom we collaborate, and maintaining a learner’s mindset in all of our collaboration.

Embodying love and spirit

Embodying Love and Spirit. We are human beings first, and more deeply connected to one another than our modern world will readily admit. While capitalism and colonialism work tirelessly to influence the ways we engage with one another, let alone ourselves, IDEA maintains a discipline in holding space for love, spirit, and humanity to guide our work in the various shapes it takes.

Intentional power building in communities

Intentional power building in communities by supporting local youth, educators, and parents to be the leaders and drivers of change in their communities.

HUMILITY IN OUR WORK AND RELATIONSHIPS

Centering humility as foundational to our work and relationships by acknowledging the limits of any one person or organization’s knowledge, listening intently to our partners, and remaining open to continual learning, reflection, and growth.

Honoring humanity over agenda

Honoring humanity over agenda. We place the physical, emotional, and social needs of people and communities over any pre-set agenda or schedule. While there is an urgent need for equity, justice, and sovereignty, we must first ensure that we respect the human needs of ourselves, and the people and communities we work with.

A Letter From Our Executive Director

Hello and welcome,

Education has consistently been, and likely will always be, a bedrock foundation of deciding who and what we value in this country. Education is a place of hope and guarantee for the well-being of us all. Families, schools, governments – local, national and statewide – have among them the many resources and the vast wells of wisdom that it takes to turn the tide for children all across this country.

Learning history, true history, is important. We learn from those who led us before, and those who continue to rise and develop into the leadership of now. It’s why we must know and observe, innovate and activate plans to work from lessons learned through sacrifices in trying to make this country lovingly inhabitable for us all. It’s why we have to provide and demand an education that not only instills pride in our homes, schools, and families, but also allows our youth to be the uninhibited dreamers of our tomorrows. It’s why a young Myles Hill Bennis can write the editors of a children’s book on Puerto Rican history, challenge the story that was presented, and have the author and publishers commit to producing more accurate information for the young minds they influence and help mold.

When we teach truth we create environments to act on it. Seeing a successful fight to save and support public schools in Jackson, MS, the work of the Journey for Justice Alliance, the fight to protect undocumented children in Louisiana courts by Free Alas, the movement to protect and secure justice for stolen Black lives, and the investments of so many philanthropic people and organizations make our contribution to change possible, and drives us to honor the voices of the people who have historically and presently continue to lead the way.

Our country is buzzing with vibrant people and beautiful efforts to build and fortify the learning and living experiences for our children. There are new days ahead – we will move from this current phase of the world directly into the one we are dreaming and building now. We have an opportunity before us to make sure that that world includes the voices of us all.

We are on a journey together and we thank you for letting us walk alongside so many beautiful hearts and minds along the way.

Albert Sykes and the IDEA Team

Partners