Democracy and Civic Life: What Is the Long Game for Philanthropy?

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A well-functioning democracy depends on healthy and trusted public and private institutions; an economy that provides broad-based opportunity and prosperity; tolerance and respect for one another and our differences; and a vibrant civic life. But democracy is undergoing a period of stress that some might even call decline. The challenges of our time raise questions about the role of philanthropy and whether the sector has acted aggressively and effectively to stem the decline of confidence in government, institutions, and one another. 

To explore where philanthropy might make more of a difference, the Kettering Foundation and the Knight Foundation invited leading thinkers on the future of our democracy to write about the challenges and opportunities for American democracy and what role philanthropy can play in addressing those challenges.

All 20 essays are available to download below.

A Better, Stronger America: Together by David Mathews 

Philanthropy’s Role in Strengthening American Democracy: A Diverse Agenda by Alberto Ibargüen and Sam Gill

Gathering: A Prerequisite for Democracy by Lucy Bernholz

The Conversations of a Self-Governing People by Emily Chamlee-Wright

Death and Democracy by Cathy J. Cohen

The End of Philanthropy by Mary Anne Franks

Comprehensive Public Sector Reform by Francis Fukuyama

Philanthropy’s Techno-Solutionism Problem by Janet Haven and danah boyd

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the Twenty-First Century by Antonia Hernández 

To Save Democracy, First Save Society by Brian Hooks

Fear and Loathing in American Politics by Shanto Iyengar

Fortifying Our Democracy in an Alienated Age by Yuval Levin

Building Civic Bridges through a Lens of Racial Justice by Martha McCoy

What Philanthropies Should—and Shouldn’t—Do to Save Democracy by Yascha Mounk

What Big Philanthropy Can Learn from Big Tech by Safiya U. Noble

An Agenda for Economic Democracy by K. Sabeel Rahman

The Enduring Insight of John Dewey by Melvin L. Rogers

“Defactionalizing” Science by Daniel M. Rothschild

Building Connective Democracy to Combat Polarization by Natalie J. Stroud and Gina M. Masullo

Conformity Culture by Janet Tran

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