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Searching for a New Paradigm: Collective Settings

December 5, 2023

"Searching for a New Paradigm: Collective Settings," by More in Common and SNF Agora, is a report that seeks to re-articulate a long-standing paradigm for making democracy work. This is a paradigm that the authors believe has gotten lost in the attention economy that drives much of American politics. Investing in the design and distribution of civic infrastructure may not be the approach that garners the viral attention that often drives action, the authors say, but it is necessary for preparing our people and our communities for the inevitable uncertainties that we will face in the future. The authors write, "By investing in collective settings, we hope to develop the muscles for democracy that people and communities will need to seek, identify, and implement shared solutions that do not accept the world as it is but instead create the world they need."The report emerges from a collaboration between SNF Agora Institute and More in Common to organize convenings and joint research focused on synthesizing the evidence base for how we create collective settings that develop the behaviors and orientations that underlie a culture of democracy, and proposing a research agenda for moving forward.

A Program Review of the Promoting Electoral Reform and Democratic Participation (PERDP) Initiative of the Ford Foundation

April 1, 2016

As part of its strategic redesign process in 2015, the Ford Foundation sought a systematic review of its Promoting Electoral Reform and Democratic Participation (PERDP) initiative in the United States. The overarching goal of the review was to understand the extent to which a clear theory of change existed in PERDP's work, and whether that theory of change matched broader understandings of what worked in strengthening civic engagement and democracy. Our goal was not to assess particular grants or funding choices. Instead we sought to synthesize learning about strategies for increasing civic participation and improving the functioning of American democracy by looking broadly at both scholarly research and the experiences of PERDP.

Civic Associations That Work: The Contributions of Leadership to Organizational Effectiveness

August 1, 2006

Why are some civic associations more effective at advancing their public agendas, engaging members, and developing leaders? We introduce a multi-dimensional framework for analyzing the comparative effectiveness of member-based civic associations in terms of public influence, member engagement, and leader development. Theoretical expectations in organization studies, sociology, political science, and industrial relations hold that organizations benefiting from either a favorable environment or abundant resources will be most effective. Using systematic data on the Sierra Clubs 400 local organizations, we assess these factors alongside an alternative approach focusing on the role of leaders, how they work together, and the activities they carry out to build capacity and conduct programs. While we find modest support for the importance of an organizations available resources and external environment, we find strong evidence for each of our three outcomes supporting our claim that effectiveness in civic associations depends to a large degree on internal organizational practices.This publication is Hauser Center Working Paper No. 36. The Hauser Center Working Paper Series was launched during the summer of 2000. The Series enables the Hauser Center to share with a broad audience important works-in-progress written by Hauser Center scholars and researchers.