A growing need for enhanced democratic participation in society prompted the formation of the Northern Plains Ethics Institute (NPEI). Chartered by the North Dakota Board of Higher Education in 2000, for the last decade, the NPEI’s Initiative at NDSU has addressed some very important ethical challenges facing the area and nation, such as the ethics of agriculture, education, political life, health-care, and business. To address this initiative our work has included many events such as conferences, think tanks, town hall meetings, and public forums covering a wide array of topics pertinent to today’s world.
The NPEI’s initial inception developed from the NDSU Ethics Committee’s creation of the Group Decision Center (GDC) in 1998 to function as an electronic consensus-forming laboratory. It utilizes group decision-making technology to enhance problem solving and decision-making skills, as well as conducting anonymity-based surveys. A key component to the GDC is an individual’s ability to contribute anonymously through the use of technology, therefore putting all participants on equal footing.
In addition, the NPEI has supported projects aimed at improving the quality of life in the region. One such effort has been supported by a grant to help non-profit organizations to be more effective in areas such as fundraising, media relationships, administrative efficiency, and board selection.
The NPEI depends on the quality of people who have volunteered to be involved with the Institute. We have discovered that many have an eagerness to influence the direction of society if only they have an instrument through which to work. We are aware that too many of the institutions of democracy seem distant and imposing. The NPEI is one way in which the public can join the discussion, which is the substance of democracy.