As Kettering Foundation staff learned this past July, creating a strategic plan is only one step in the journey toward reimagining the work. For those of us working in the Democracy around the Globe focus area, we now needed to shape the goals for this area and interpret how those goals could be met. Democracy around the Globe: Year in Review—2023 captures the many ways that staff worked to identify the linkages between strategy and impactful efforts that the foundation could make in this focus area.
KF Vice President and General Counsel Maxine Thomas, who led the expansion of the foundation’s international work in 2022 and 2023, summed up the situation in her introduction to the report: “[Democracy around the Globe] is one of the few areas that builds on large parts of the work that Kettering has done for more than 40 years. That is both a strength and a weakness. The challenge is how to build on Kettering’s new plan without relying on the old processes.”
That challenge kept Democracy around the Globe staff busy in 2023, but in very different ways than in the past. These new approaches included creating “affinity groups” comprised of members of KF’s existing international network and developing a new version of Kettering’s international fellowship program. There were presentations at the regional Summit for Democracy in the Dominican Republic and conferences with the Africa Network in South Africa and the international network in New Zealand. In addition, staff listened in on and participated in conversations with people from many different professions, including civil society practitioners, academics, and journalists. In her report reflections, Paloma Dallas, senior program officer for Democracy around the Globe, states: “In all these efforts, we have tried to get underneath the major trendlines of the erosion of democracy around the world to understand the experiences and forces that are driving the backsliding. Our intent has been to better understand these challenges and identify opportunities to help counter them, as well as potential partners to collaborate with in working to change the tide.”
Dallas further notes in her reflections that there is a “need for a fresh language and understanding of democracy that better resonates with people’s everyday lives and struggles.” To read about the efforts and insights of Democracy around the Globe in 2023, download the report here.