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America + Civic Language

October 18, 2022

The words Americans use to describe, debate, and examine our civic values, ideals, and practices are also the words we use to connect, share, and co-create our community and national future. What can we know about how aligned we are on our language choices related to our civic lives? Perhaps another concern underlies this question: are we talking past each other about values we think we share? This was the core inquiry that animated Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)'s Civic Language Perceptions Project. In November 2021, PACE and Citizen Data surveyed a nationally representative sample of 5000 American voters to understand their perceptions of 21 terms that are commonly used in democracy and civic engagement work, and who they associate using those terms. In March 2022, we released the data to the public and embarked on an effort to analyze and disaggregate the data from multiple angles and perspectives. We now combine the quantitative and qualitative analysis to highlight key findings.

Improving the Census Legal and Policy Reforms for a More Accurate, Equitable, and Legitimate Count

September 13, 2022

The census is a cornerstone of American democracy. The results of this constitutionally required, once-a-decade count of every person living in the United States dictate how seats in the House of Representatives are divided among the states, how state and local governments draw electoral districts, and how more than $1.5 trillion annually in federal funds is distributed for essential services such as health care, food assistance, and education. At its best, the census offers an authentic picture of who we are as a diverse and growing nation.The 2020 census struggled. It faced a barrage of obstacles, from executive interference to chronic underfunding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the face of these challenges, it ultimately failed to reach 18.8 million people — more than 5 percent of the country's population. What's more, the census once again disproportionately undercounted people of color, with the Latino undercount rate more than tripling from the prior decade. And multiple states were undercounted by significant margins. These inaccuracies compromise the census's ability to fairly distribute political power and federal funding both across states and across communities, undercutting the democratic promise of our political system. Meanwhile, overall census response rates remain stuck in a rut, costs are rising, and the bureau's reliance on labor-intensive door-to-door outreach is showing its limits. The census is too critical to continue in this precarious state.This paper sets forth a blueprint for reforming the law and policy of the decennial population count. Our goal is to make future censuses more accurate, equitable, and legitimate. An accurate census correctly captures the number and demographic characteristics of all people residing in the country. An equitable census is designed, funded, and run to count all groups precisely and to distribute political power and economic support commensurate with each community's fair share. A legitimate census — one that is scientifically rigorous and democratically accountable and boasts universal participation — warrants and inspires widespread trust. Legitimacy and accuracy require equity; an equitable census is free from the long-running tendency to undercount Black, Latino, and Native American communities in comparison with white ones, inspiring confidence in its fundamental fairness.

Partnering with Federal Agencies to Advance Racial Equity

May 12, 2022

Partnering with Federal Agencies to Advance Racial Equity is a report by Race Forward and PolicyLink  that describes the work that commenced in partnership with federal agency offices, considers observations and lessons learned along the way, and discusses efforts that must continue at the federal level to fully realize the intentions of the executive order and move this country toward a more racially just future.Race Forward and PolicyLink co-led a Racial Equity Governing Pilot Project with federal agencies in the fall and winter of 2021 and 2022. This report discusses critical elements of these partnership pilots and lessons to inform and support the longer term aspirations of the federal government to become actively antiracist. 

The Politics of Judicial Elections, 2019-20

January 25, 2022

In 2019–20, state Supreme Court elections attracted more money — including more spending by special interests — than any judicial election cycle in history, posing a serious threat to the appearance and reality of justice across the country.Thirty-eight states use elections to choose the justices who sit on their highest courts, which typically have the final word in interpreting state law. Over the past two decades, the Brennan Center has tracked and documented more than $500 million in spending in these races.This unparalleled spending speaks to the power and influence of state supreme courts, which often fly below the public's radar. The current political moment only heightens the stakes. In 2020 alone, state supreme courts ruled on everything from ballot access and challenges to election results to governors' emergency orders concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, state courts are playing a crucial role in the ongoing redistricting cycle, including resolving disputes about racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering and even drawing electoral maps in some states.States have a wide range of tools to mitigate the harms documented in this report, including eliminating Supreme Court elections or limiting justices to a lengthy single term in office, providing judicial candidates with public financing, strengthening disclosure rules, and adopting recusal and ethics reforms. The 2019–20 cycle underscores that the challenges posed by modern supreme court elections are not going away — and that the need for action is urgent.

The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives

December 9, 2021

This report makes the case for expanding the House of Representatives to bring the American people a little closer to their government, and their government closer to them. The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives is an independent byproduct of Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the final report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. The Commission represents a cross-partisan cohort of leaders from academia, civil society, philanthropy, and the policy sphere who reached unanimous agreement on thirty-one recommendations to improve American democracy. The report takes as a premise that political institutions, civic culture, and civil society reinforce one another. A nation may have impeccably designed bodies of government, but it also needs an engaged citizenry to ensure these institutions function as intended. As a result, Our Common Purpose argues that reforming only one of these areas is insufficient. Progress must be made across all three. To build a better democracy, the United States needs better-functioning institutions as well as a healthier political culture and a more resilient civil society.

Dismantling Racism and Militarism in U.S. Foreign Policy

September 17, 2021

The current U.S. national security paradigm robs us of economic resources, corrupts our political system,endangers our lives, and offends our most fundamental moral values.It perpetuates a system that discriminates against, disempowers, disrespects, dehumanizes, and brutalizes Black and brown people and other communities of color. It is an extension of systemic white supremacy at home that relies upon the threat and use of force abroad.Continuing the U.S. quest for global military domination harms not only the people of other countries and the earth we share, but the vast majority of Americans. The Racism-Militarism Paradigm, moreover, harms all of our social, political, and economic institutions, including our democratic institutions, thus weakening our entire society.To peacefully and democratically dismantle this paradigm, we must offer a compelling alternative vision of the U.S. role in the world.

Representation for Some: The Discriminatory Nature of Limiting Representation to Adult Citizens

July 29, 2021

Every 10 years, political districts at all levels of government are redrawn to make sure they are equal in population as required by the U.S. Constitution.1 Currently every state apportions representatives and draws congressional and state legislative districts on the basis of a state's total population.2 That is, when districts are drawn, all people living in the state, including children and noncitizens, are counted for the purposes of representation.However, some Republican political operatives and elected officials aim to unsettle this long-standing prac[1]tice by excluding children and noncitizens from the popu[1]lation figures used to draw state legislative districts.3 Rather than count everyone, states would draw districts based only on the adult citizen population.Making such a break with current practice and prece[1]dent would be of dubious legality and would leave states vulnerable to a host of legal challenges. It also would have major practical implications for redistricting. This study looks at what such a change would mean for representa[1]tion and the allocation of political power in the United States by focusing on its impact three demographically distinct states: Texas, Georgia, and Missouri.

Saving Time and Making Cents: A Blueprint for Building Transit Better

July 29, 2021

Cities, states, and metropolitan areas across the United States are looking to invest in a range of public transit projects in order to connect people to jobs and economic opportunity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and shape development patterns.  According to one estimate, the United States invested about $50 billion in new transit projects in just the last decade.1 These include underground subways in Los Angeles, commuter rail lines along the Front Range near Denver, a streetcar in downtown Atlanta, light rail lines in suburban Phoenix, and bus rapid transit in Richmond, Virginia, among many others.While these projects are as diverse as the country itself, they all have one thing in common: increased scrutiny over their costs and timelines to build. A few very visible projects have reinforced the narrative that rail transit investments have systemic issues that are endemic to the United States.This all begs the questions: Is this true? If so, why? And what should we do about it?These are precisely the questions Eno set out to answer through this research, policy, and communications project to analyze current and historical trends in public transit project delivery. We convened a set of advisors and conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders to understand the drivers behind mass transit construction, cost, and delivery in the United States. A comprehensive database of rail transit projects was created and curated to compare costs and timelines among U.S. cities and peer metropolitan areas in Western Europe and Canada. Through this quantitative and qualitative approach, we developed actionable recommendations for policy changes at all levels of government as well as best practices for the public and private sectors.

Which Women Can Run?: The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections’ Competitive Primaries

June 9, 2021

Women ran, donated and voted in record numbers during the 2020 elections, despite a global pandemic and the ensuing recession that has fallen on overt gender and racial lines. Still, intersectional racial and gender fundraising gaps persisted when women, particularly women of color, ran in 2020 primary and general elections. Campaign finance remains a barrier of entry for many demographic groups of women, especially in primary elections. OpenSecrets' new gender and race report, Which Women Can Run? The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections' Competitive Primaries, examines the variables that create barriers early on for women, especially women of color, and the variables that lead these candidates toward successful campaigns. Our goal is to address and document how gender and race impact primaries.

The Redistricting Landscape, 2021–22

February 11, 2021

This report looks at the upcoming redistricting cycle through the lens of four factors that will influence outcomes in each state: who controls map drawing; changes in the legal rules governing redistricting over the last decade; pressures from population and demographic shifts over the same period; and the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the 2020 Census. In each state, the confluence of these factors will determine the risk of manipulated maps or whether, conversely, the redistrict[1]ing process will produce maps that reflect what voters want, respond to shifts in public opinion, and protect the rights of communities of color.

Impact Investing Handbook: An Implementation Guide for Practitioners

October 1, 2020

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors published the "Impact Investing Handbook: An Implementation Guide for Practitioners"—180 pages of helping asset owners turn interest into action. Two years in the making, this practical publication features case studies and detailed guidance for individuals, families, foundations, and corporations. Written by Steven Godeke of Godeke Consulting and Patrick Briaud of RPA, it features input from over fifty experts and practitioners.The Handbook comes at a pivotal moment. In the midst of urgent social, economic and environmental challenges including COVID-19, a rapidly changing climate, growing economic inequity, and broader realization of systemic impacts of racism, more investors are seeking to better understand the positive and negative consequences of how they deploy capital. There is a growing realization among those who seek to influence society that they can use more of their assets to complement and even accelerate their social impact goals.The Handbook covers:The Why – Developing a theory of change by merging impact goals with investment goals.The How – Building or shifting a portfolio using the full range of impact tools and structures.The So What – Measuring success through leading principles, frameworks, and standards.The Now What – Crafting a realistic implementation plan by following best practices.

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 12, 2020

"Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century" is the work of the US national and bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, convened by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It presents 31 recommendations - across political institutions, political culture, and civil society - which are the product of two years of work and nearly 50 listening sessions with Americans around the country, which sought to understand how American citizens could obtain the values, knowledge, and skills to become better citizens. Collectively, the recommendations lay the foundation for an essential reinvention of the American democracy supported by the increasement of citizens' capacity to engage in their communities.