Kettering’s program year runs from Labor Day to Labor Day, and at the end of each summer we step back to reflect on what has happened in the foundation research over that time. Here is a summary of major Kettering Foundation news since last fall, along with reflections from David Holwerk, Kettering’s Director of Communications, about his experience since joining the foundation in 2009.
In October, the Ruth Yellowhawk Fellowship on Native American Forums was established to honor Ruth Yellowhawk, who passed away August 7, 2010, following a two-month bout with cancer. Before she moved to South Dakota, Ruth had been a Program Director at WYSO, a public radio station in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and worked with Kettering and National Issues Forums in NIF’s early days. She had also done research for the foundation showing that a legacy of tribal deliberation has carried over into modern-day decision making.
To honor Ruth and to continue that research, Kettering established the Ruth Yellowhawk Fellowship. Yellowhawk Fellows will be selected on the basis of proposals to tell the stories of either historical or contemporary decision making, including how problems were identified, issues were framed, decisions were made, and actions were taken.
Also in October, the Dartmouth Conference celebrated 50 years of bringing citizens from the United States and Russia together to talk about their lives and what they wanted for their countries and the world. The simple fact that citizens continued their dialogue despite often alarming developments between the two nations is a remarkable and historic achievement. From the participation of Hal Saunders, Phil Stewart, and others in the Dartmouth Conference, Kettering has gained many insights about what people—acting as citizens rather than as politicians, experts, or foreign affairs professionals—can contribute to international peace.
In November, Hal Saunders received the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy from the American Academy for Diplomacy for his work with the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue. Previous recipients of this award include Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, and George Mitchell.
At the new year, the Cousins Research Group (an internal and somewhat ad hoc group of foundation folks, including president David Mathews, who pull together different strands of research for books, chapters, and articles) created a new list of priorities for 2011. The first priority was three new articles for the Kettering Review, Connections, and the Higher Education Exchange, explicating how the scope of the foundation’s research has broadened from the relationship between the public and the public schools to include all educating institutions and their communities—particularly the culture of learning in communities.
Another major project, carried over from 2010, is an exploration of the “ecology of democracy.” This is a big undertaking, and the book the CRG hopes to produce will carry forward the story that began with Politics for People.
Another large-scale project deals with the impact that federal social policy has had on democracy—intentionally or not. In-house, this is known as the “Of/By/For” project. The CRG has completed major sections on school integration and health care but is still working on other areas like welfare and is also looking into the nature of policy and policymaking.
In January and February, the foundation watched, with the rest of the world, as protests began to ignite around the Arab world. Fortunately, the foundation had its longtime collaborator in this area, the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy, to turn to for firsthand insights into the situation. The Arab Network released an official statement on the situation:
What is happening clearly expresses the yearning of Arab populaces for freedom, dignity, and justice and for their legitimate right to change conditions without violence or war. We, as researchers and activists from Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco, have met for years to establish a network dealing with the study of democracy, mechanisms of democratic transformation, and concepts of citizen deliberation with the goal of change. …We hope that peaceful movements of reform and change prevail throughout the Arab world in order to rebuild our societies and begin living in an age of stability and freedom under the sovereignty of the rule of law. We declare also that fortifying any democratic transformation requires the following:
- Respect for human rights and affirmation of equality among citizens, whether male or female.
- Enacting new legislation that ends the permanent state of emergency and grants the freedoms of political action, including respect for freedom of expression and ratification of new electoral laws guaranteeing equitable representation.
- Judicial reform ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law over all.
- Public administration reform by enacting laws combating corruption and clientelism.
- Undertaking constitutional reform limiting the absolute powers of presidents or kings and adopting a system of divided and balanced powers.
- Organize free and fair general elections resulting in parliaments that actually represent various political forces, as long as they accept a democratic approach based on popular mandate and peaceful transfers of power.
- Initiate the implementation of economic and financial reforms and development of social policies in order to confront poverty, unemployment, and the other severe crises that afflict broad segments of our societies.
- Each peaceful, democratic path demands wider citizen participation to ensure the sustainability of reform and continuation in the devolution of power. It also requires independence from all negative possible influences from both regional and external actors violating.
In March, Kettering Foundation began distribution of its documentary, No Textbook Answer: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap, via public television, with over 60 stations around the country signing on to air the film. Kettering also held some productive research exchanges, particularly one with a new group of public broadcasters and another with teachers using NIF books. On a related note, Peggy Sparks’ indefatigable efforts to integrate NIF in the Classroom materials into Birmingham schools culminated in some of those lesson plans being added to the Alabama state education curriculum.
In May, the foundation hosted its annual Washington briefing sessions at the National Press Club. This year’s event consisted of two discussions, Economic Security: How Can We Take Charge of Our Future? and A Nation of Debtors: Facing the Tough Choices. At these events, Kettering and the National Issues Forums Institute focused on the strategic implications for policymakers of public thinking on these issues. Panelists for the Economic Security discussion included William Barnes of the National League of Cities, David Parkhurst of the National Governors Association, and Stacy Sanders of Wider Opportunities for Women. An audio production by Scott London based on the conversation is due out in late summer.
The second panel, which introduced the new NIF issue guide A Nation of Debtors: Facing the Tough Choices, included former Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Gail Leftwich Kitch from By the People (MacNeil/Lehrer Productions), Maya MacGuineas of the New America Foundation, Scott Pattison of the National Association of State Budget Officers, Ryan Schoenike of WeCantPayThatTab.org, and David Walker of the Comeback America Initiative. Public Agenda’s Jean Johnson moderated the discussion.
The foundation had productive research exchanges with a new group from the National Coalition of State Legislators and another new group of state budget officers. Kettering published new NIF issue guides and videos on immigration, Internet content, the national debt, and youth and violence. Testing has begun on and this fall should see the release of the first NIF in the Classroom “Historic Decisions” curriculum, 1776: What Should We Do? Kettering also released We the People Politics, a new report from longtime colleague Harry Boyte. The report argues that it is crucial for Americans to recover and expand on a politics of deliberation and public work, with deep roots in the populist tradition, in order to re-create civic agency and gain some control over our collective future. Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda published a long-awaited report on the accountability movement: Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More.
Planning has begun for the 25th anniversary of Kettering’s exchange with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as well as plans for upcoming monthly research sessions, which will include visits from colleagues Tim Eatman of Imagining America, Romand Coles of Northern Arizona University, Craig Calhoun of the Social Science Resource Council, and Diana Hess from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.