Navigate / search

The Institute for Everyday Democracy

The Institute for Everyday Democracy believes collaborative intelligence is the key to a successful democracy. Our mission is to apply the Pomegranate Center’s 30+ years of experience in placemaking and community engagement to new challenges facing our country, asking of ourselves and others how everyday citizens can become more engaged in a collaborative society. The Institute is a place to exchange ideas, join in discussions, and generate a body of thought about how we participate in our democracy.


Five Inquiries of the Institute for Everyday Democracy

We will explore five areas that, in our judgment, are the most critical for all of us to address if we are to craft a livable future together.

What is our contemporary version of a model person? In the Renaissance times, artists, business people, and political leaders articulated the qualities and virtues of Uomo Universale, a universal person. They praised the ability to excel in several disciplines to equip them to better participate in an active life of public service. Throughout history, people projected similar ideals in many places and throughout the ages. What should we expect now from ourselves and from each other?  What are the qualities and characteristics of a complete citizen of the 21st century?

What articulated and shared images of the future should guide us forward? Dutch sociologist Fred Polak wrote in his classic work The Image of the Future: “The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society’s image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.” In our unique times, every group seems to have its separate image of the future. For most, the image is negative and wilting, focusing on what is not working. They are not active and flourishing as Polak implores. We need to have conversations about what future we should envision. Such a collective exercise is not about what we don’t like. It is also not about what I want to see for me and mine. It is a much deeper and courageous exploration of what ought to happen. What powerful ideas and images of the future should we all own?

If our cities are outward expressions of our inner imaginations, how should they change? According to the 2014 United Nations report, by 2030, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities. The way cities work now will have to change. We will not be able to afford the high cost of pollution poisoning our air, water, soil, and all the creatures. It will be too costly to continue to sprawl and meet the demands of construction and upkeep of roads and to maintain the sprawling infrastructure. In short, the cities will need to waste much less, and that includes the squander of human time, goodwill, and talent. The business as usual will not work. What will?

What is the meaning and practice of community in our times of physical and psychological gated communities? In Better Together, Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein that in an increasingly diverse society, it is important to grow “social capital”: the power of connections between people. Pomegranate Center’s work was an experiment in how to increase this social capital by engaging people joyfully and creatively not only through meetings, but design workshops and, most surprisingly, by working together in the spirit of community barn-raising. The bottom line is this: we are comfortable associating with those who are like us. They are our affinity groups. These are our friends who look like us, share similar tastes in food, music, fashion, and uphold comparable ideas about politics and societal priorities. In other words, we all are looking for our tribe and, given the possibilities, we would create neighborhoods just with them. The reality is that a tiny percent live in such gated communities. The rest of us live in places where lots of different people rub shoulders: rich and poor, with different skin colors, political and ideological preferences, and ages. This delicious mix is an extraordinary opportunity to learn the bigger picture, for every one of these people has a unique perspective that can help us see the larger truth. Because our world is such a complex and multi-dimensional organism, different ideas can expand our limited knowledge.

What can art and artists do to help us along? Artists, when at their best, exhibit attitudes and practices that are needed by our society. Traditionally, artists were healers and magicians connecting individuals to community and people to nature. They were stewards of keeping the world together. They know how to do a lot with a little and have learned how to respond and not just react. They have reverence for materials and collaborators. Because they know better than most what lies around the corner, they are self-appointed ambassadors for preparing us for the future. Their qualities are much needed.


Milenko at TEDxTacoma


Milenko Matanovic

About Milenko Matanovic

Milenko Matanović is a nationally recognized thought leader who gained his reputation by successfully leading over 60 placemaking projects involving people from all walks of life and all ages. Using his collaborative process, community members actively contribute to their well-being by engaging in the imagining, implementation, and building of gathering places.

Milenko accumulated his knowledge through decades of hands-on research and action. He is a passionate thinker, inspired teacher, and insightful artist devoted to resilient communities. In 1986, he started Pomegranate Center to explore the art of creative collaboration, and to teach that, when it comes to community, together we always know more and that empowering communities is the most efficient, foundational way for us to improve our society. He has worked with hundreds of communities worldwide, built innovative gathering places across the globe, received numerous awards for his contributions and trained a large number of community leaders in his Pomegranate model of community building.

Milenko speaks about bringing people together to build better communities. During these talks Milenko shares his experiences with wit and humor. His speech topics include: building community the artist way, courageous things anyone can do to build community, collaboration and creativity, community engagement vs. community recruitment, and community of place & community of affinity.


Read Milenko’s Bio

View Milenko’s Resume


Watch Videos of Milenko’s Past Speaking Engagements

Guest Speaker at the Department of Art History, University of Ljubljana

Courage to Collaborate:  Milenko Matanovic at TedX Tacoma

Milenko Matanovic: Art as community builder

Continuums of Service Conference

Milenko Matanovic at Collaborations for Cause (Part 1)

Milenko Matanovic at Collaborations for Cause (Part 2)


Listen to Interviews with Milenko

Milenko’s interview on the Parksify podcast


Invite Milenko to Speak

Milenko Matanovic speaks regularly at conferences, campuses, and corporate events. For more information about his speech topics, fees, and availability, please contact our office at (425) 557-6412 or email