Democracy Needs All of Us to Thrive

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation works to inspire and connect individuals and organizations to advance thriving and inclusive democracies around the globe. We believe all people belong and have the right to engage in and shape a democracy that serves them.

Focus Areas
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Meeting group

The Time to Act Is Now

Democracies around the globe are under unprecedented threat from authoritarianism, disinformation, polarization, and eroded trust in our institutions. But every day, in every community, citizens are stepping up to protect our freedoms. We are researching what works. We are innovating. We are building connections. We are amplifying voices on the streets, at the polls, and in the legislature.

People are the heart of democracy. The Kettering Foundation is dedicated to bringing research and people together to make the promise of democracy real for everyone, everywhere.


We envision a world of thriving democracies where the rights of all are protected and people fulfill their civic responsibilities.


We advance inclusive democracies by fostering civic engagement, promoting government accountability, and countering authoritarianism.

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Guiding Beliefs and Values

Democratic Integrity: We believe in the rule of law and that all people have the right to free and fair elections, accountable leadership, and the peaceful transfer of power.

Civic Responsibility: We believe that people have a responsibility to participate in their communities and make demands of their governments for the common good.

Belonging: We believe that democracy must embrace the full diversity of life experiences, beliefs, and voices of all.

Justice: We believe that all people have a right to fair and equitable treatment by institutions and systems of governance.

Trustworthiness: We believe that democracy requires civic governmental institutions that are honest, transparent, and accountable.

How We Do Our Work

The Kettering Foundation advances inclusive democracies by empowering people with the knowledge and tools to build and preserve resilient democratic systems. We do this through:

Research: We are committed to leading and supporting research initiatives that provide people with information grounded in truth and equip them to advance and defend democracy.

Narrative Making: We create and support narratives that inspire people to embrace their power and role in democracy and that disrupt false narratives that are designed to divide community and harm democracy.

Communication: We provide people with information about the opportunities in democracy and to help them stay ahead of what threatens it.

Innovation: We continually search for new, responsive, and impactful ways to advance and defend democracy.

Partnerships: We build and cultivate alliances to strengthen commitment to democracy worldwide.

Strategic Direction: Our new strategic plan centers around three major strategic directions: countering authoritarianism, fostering civic engagement, and promoting government accountability.

The foundation advances our work across five targeted focus areas. Together, these focus areas position the foundation to promote democratic principles and values and counter attacks on democracy.

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Our People

Board of Directors

Sharon L. Davies
Ed Dorn
Beverly Wade Hogan
Les Ihara, Jr.
Peter Levine
Sherry Magill (Chair)
Hank Meijer
Suzanne Morse Moomaw
Roberto Saba

Our History

Since the foundation was established nearly 100 years ago, we have been committed to the advancement of human knowledge; the progress of the arts and sciences; and the endowment of public, educational, and other charitable projects. Our fellows and partners today conduct cutting-edge research and lead innovative programs to advance and protect inclusive democracies around the globe.

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, operating foundation engaged in research for the improvement of society. Founded in 1927 by Charles F. Kettering, best known for inventing the automobile self-starter, the foundation carries on his legacy of rigorous research and his steadfast belief that progress and a better future are attainable through change and innovation.

Since our founding, the foundation has undergone two major changes in how we do our work: In the late 1960s, Kettering shifted from being a grant-making foundation to an operating foundation. In the 1980s, the foundation decided to center all our research and programming on the project of strengthening democracy, both in the U.S. and around the globe, with a special emphasis on the role of citizens in democracy. Over the course of more than four decades, Kettering has earned a distinguished reputation in the field of deliberative democracy, guided by the belief that democratic societies advance through mechanisms and rights that foster citizen engagement.

Now, under Sharon L. Davies’ leadership and working against the backdrop of rapidly evolving global threats to democracy, Kettering is widening our aperture. This new focus enables the foundation to tackle the most pressing challenges to democracy today and contribute to a future where people are informed and engaged in shaping their collective future.

Learn more about our work.

Charles F. Kettering