Bill Benet

Bill Benet

Dissertation Chair, Walden University School of Public Policy and Administration

Dr. Bill Benet is an educator/researcher/activist who developed the Polarities of Democracy theory at the University of Toronto. He has over 50 years’ experience in government, nonprofit management, and business. Beginning with the Civil Rights Movement in 1960, he has been a lifelong activist for social justice. Following three years in the US Army (1965-1968), he served 28 years in the Monroe County Legislature as an elected representative from Rochester, New York, including five years as Majority Leader.

Now in his fourth career, Dr. Benet received his Ph.D. in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto in 2006, with a specialization in Workplace Learning and Change. He currently holds academic appointments as a Dissertation Committee Chair with Walden University’s School of Public Policy and Administration, an Associate Researcher with the University of Toronto’s Centre for Learning Social Economy and Work, and a Senior Fellow with Bentley University’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement Center. In addition, Dr. Benet serves as President and Senior Fellow for the Center for Democratic Values, Vice-President and Senior Fellow for the Institute for Polarities of Democracy, and as Executive Director for the Graduation Pledge Alliance (a consortium of over 200 colleges and universities where graduates sign a Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility).

Dr. Benet’s primary research interests are in using his Polarities of Democracy as a theoretical framework for positive social change through the democratization of workplaces and society. The Polarities of Democracy theory addresses the social and environmental challenges that we face on a local, national, and global level. Dr. Benet uses the Polarities of Democracy to promote participatory practices that allow citizens, workers, families, organizations, and communities to unleash their creativity and strengthen their capacity for research and social change initiatives. The Polarities of Democracy theory is being used around the world as a guide to build healthy, sustainable, and just communities. Approximately 30 Walden PhD students and graduates have used or are using the Polarities of Democracy as the theoretical framework for their dissertations.

For further information, go to: or


Why do you believe innovations in participatory democracy are important?

Participatory democracy is an essential element for overcoming oppression and building healthy, sustainable, and just communities.


What do you hope to see at the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference?

A growing commitment to the essential elements of democracy that are required to address the environmental, economic, militaristic, and social challenges that threaten life on our planet.