Groundwork: Democracy Close to Home

Voters arrive at the town hall in Caroline, NY, for town board elections in November 2011. Photo by Jon Miller.

At a time of legislative gridlock in Washington and deep polarization in our national political discourse, Groundwork: Democracy Close to Home documented, through the intimate power of radio, how people in six local places across the United States were trying to solve problems, make decisions, and get things done.

Every day, towns and communities face pressing problems that demand attention, action, and resolution. Are local residents hampered by persistent quagmire at the federal level? How do they engage with one another to address their civic needs and care for their communities?

From Kodiak, Alaska, to San Juan, Texas, from Los Angeles to Chicago, from piedmont North Carolina to southern New York, Groundwork features the close-up stories of people wrestling with local and regional issues that resonate with broader national and international concerns. So, while federal policies on energy, civil rights, immigration, environment, and government spending continue to be in flux, local residents face decisions about hydrofracking, same-sex marriage amendments, social services for immigrants, destruction of natural habitats, and city budget support. Who’s minding these matters? What challenges do they encounter? What do their efforts look like? What is the tone of the debate?

Groundwork, a nationally broadcast public radio and multimedia project, is examining the current state of American democracy—at its roots, close to home, where adversaries might be neighbors and inaction is seldom an option.

With a team of veteran radio producers and editors, the project includes a series of documentary features to air in spring 2012 on national public radio; a one-hour documentary special, hosted by Scott Simon of National Public Radio, to be distributed by PRX to radio stations across the United States in June 2012; and a blog and multimedia, interactive website that invites stories and media content from the audience.

Groundwork: Democracy Close to Home, a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. For three of the six stories, Groundwork returns to places and initiatives featured in the 1999-2002 photography and audio project Indivisible: Stories of American Community, funded by a major grant to the Center for Documentary Studies from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Listen to Groundwork on PRX.

Listen to the Groundwork episode of Scene on Radio.