Democracy means people power. It means making decisions with all people at the table. The center of democracy is human dignity.

We are facing a historical moment of crisis and reinvention in American democracy. But it is also critical to note that the current crisis of democracy is not limited to debates about norms, ethics, corruption, Executive power, or the skewing of election results. In many ways the crisis of American democracy is a deeper, more chronic one. 

Led by Demos, Center for Community Change, and Center on Democracy and Organizing, the Realizing Democracy project brought together experts from across the movement to share lessons and strategies through research, analysis, and case studies; uplift pathways forward; and co-strategize during a one-day kickoff event.  

This project was supported by the Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation.  

Realizing Democracy Report

This report shines a light on how social movement organizations structure themselves through three lenses: membership, staff, and movement ecology. The report offers case studies from six movement organizations where leaders undertook a recent structure-strategy pivot: Sunrise, Color Of Change, United for Respect, ISAIAH, New York Working Families Party, and Florida's StateWide Alignment Group.

Check out this incredible report about how six organizations understand the interplay between how they're structured and the strategic choices they make in the work

SSIR Winter 2020 Supplement: Realizing Democracy

The Realizing Democracy Project released an 11-article sponsored supplement to the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Winter 2020 volume. The supplement was developed with our partners at Community Changethe Center on Democracy and OrganizingDemos, and the Open Society Foundations as part of the year-long Realizing Democracy series. 

Read the series here


A Path Forward

The Three Pillars of Realizing Democracy 

The democracy that emerges now must be one that redresses the immediate pressures of the current moment, but also one that addresses deeper chronic forms of systemic exclusion.

Civil Society

Does social change work build durable grassroots power and voice that outlasts any one election or campaign?

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Long-term, structural renewal to our democracy requires looking to how institutions must be remade in radically inclusive, participatory, and power-shifting ways.

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A democracy marked by deep inequities of wealth and economic power—operating simultaneously along class and racial and gender lines—is one in which political democracy is fundamentally limited and unstable.

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The Kickoff Event

On Thursday, September 12, at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, Community Change, the Center on Democracy and Organizing, Demos, the Open Society Foundations, and the Ford Foundation launched a new learning series called Realizing Democracy as a part of a kickoff event.

Watch highlights from the kickoff event here: 

The event featured panels and discussions focused on the limits of our current democracy, and looked to the future to see what we can do to decentralize power and make our political system more inclusive and equitable for everyone.

The speakers, moderators, performers, and presenters at the kickoff event included Lisa García-Bedolla, Denice Frohman, Maria Torres-Springer, Tom Perriello, Emma Oppenheim, Ethan Frey, Sabeel Rahman, Hahrie Han, Chuck Mingo, DaMareo Cooper, Arisha Hatch, Grace Kim, Cleo Barnett, Felicia Wong, Anat Admati, Chris Hughes, Alison Hirsh, Erica Smiley, Lauren Jacobs, Dorian Warren, Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Jamila Michener, Lorella Praeli, Helen Gym, Aziz Rana, Elizabeth Hinton, Megan Ming Francis, and Astra Taylor.


Watch Panel Videos From the Event

Watch our Panel Videos for an in-depth look at the discussions and presentations that were held live on September 12, 2019. 

Civil Society

The opening panel at the launch event set the stage for our day by considering, in the context of a more racially and ethnically diverse society, whether civil society can remake itself to serve as an effective counterweight to the great concentration of wealth and power in our economic and civic life.  Without pretending that the path is easy or simple, our panel presented concrete examples of how to construct civil society organizations that move from protest to power.      

Economy Panel

Liberal democracy has always rested on the assumption that markets and government would work in mutually reinforcing ways. That cyclical relationship between government and the economy has been lost, but is there any hope of rebuilding it in ways that recover the foundations of moral capitalism and meet the challenges of inclusion in the 21st century? What changes to our politics, policy, and economics need to be made? 

Government Panel

This panel approached the topic of government's role in the institutional failures of our crises of democratic legitimacy, extreme inequality, and market failure. What kind of policy and governmental structures are needed to govern an inclusive, multiracial society and produce more equitable outcomes? What kinds of politics will it take to shift our foundational institutions toward justice?  

Closing Panel: Is Democracy on the Side of Freedom?

Dangerous levels of concentrated political and economic power underlie multiple and compounding crises—of democratic legitimacy, wealth inequality, the carceral state, racialized and gendered injustice, and a fast-warming climate. What can we learn from the intended and unintended consequences of previous expansions in the economic and political aspects of American democracy? How should we understand the limits of democratic control and frontiers of democratic expansion today? How might we remake civil society, government, and the economy if we aspire to realize a vision of democracy and justice for all, including for those never fully included in either.  

Artwork for Realizing Democracy

Amplifier is a design lab that builds art to amplify the voices of grassroots movements and partnered with us on our Realizing Democracy project.  

Learn more about Amplifier and the artists for this project