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Defending Democracy: The Charles F. Kettering Foundation 2023 Annual Report

February 12, 2024

Throughout its history, the Charles F. Kettering Foundation's focus has always been on innovation. Our founder, Charles F. Kettering, believed that "our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future."In summer 2023, Kettering announced its new strategic plan, In Defense of Democracy, the result of the foundation's staff flexing their imagination to better meet the needs of democracy. It introduced our new vision, mission, guiding beliefs and values, and outlined five new strategic focus areas that are designed to utilize our resources effectively in the defense and advancement of democracy.Defending Democracy: The Charles F. Kettering Foundation 2023 Annual Report chronicles this journey of transformation, highlighting a year of reflection, dialogue, and action. It is our answer to the question, "What can the Charles F. Kettering Foundation uniquely offer the democracy field at this moment of crisis?" In 2023, we took the first step in our commitment to strengthening existing partnerships, forging new collaborations, broadening our reach and influence through innovative communication strategies, and exploring new lines of research.

Over The Edge: What Should We Do When Alcohol and Drug Use Become a Problem to Society?

February 17, 2015

The purpose of this issue guide is to help people talk together about what we should do when alcohol and drug use becomes a problem to society. It begins with an overview of substance use and abuse in the United States and the impact this has on individuals, families, and communities. It then offers three options for addressing the issue, along with potential actions that could be taken. These are starting points for the conversation, which may lead to other insights and possibilities.People from seven organizations across the country participated in developing the guide, conducting interviews, surveys, and conversations with diverse people in their communities to capture different views on the issue. The organizations included the Community College of Baltimore County, San Diego Deliberation Network, Tennessee State University, University of Alaska Anchorage, Walden University, SUNY Broome Community College, and the West Virginia Center for Civic Life.The guide may be used to support a single conversation or a series of conversations. The following suggestions can help you get started:Invite participants to share how substance use and abuse has affected them, their families, and others they know. Many will have direct experiences and are likely to mention concerns identified in the guide.Consider each option one at a time, using the actions and drawbacks as examples to illustrate what each option entails.Review the conversation as a group, and identify areas of common ground as well as disagreement. Talk about possible next steps, individually and as a group.

Higher Education Exchange: 2014

January 20, 2015

This annual publication serves as a forum for new ideas and dialogue between scholars and the larger public. Essays explore ways that students, administrators, and faculty can initiate and sustain an ongoing conversation about the public life they share.The Higher Education Exchange is founded on a thought articulated by Thomas Jefferson in 1820: "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."In the tradition of Jefferson, the Higher Education Exchange agrees that a central goal of higher education is to help make democracy possible by preparing citizens for public life. The Higher Education Exchange is part of a movement to strengthen higher education's democratic mission and foster a more democratic culture throughout American society.Working in this tradition, the Higher Education Exchange publishes interviews, case studies, analyses, news, and ideas about efforts within higher education to develop more democratic societies.

Maze of Mistrust: How District Politics and Cross Talk are Stalling Efforts to Improve Public Education

October 27, 2014

There are obviously many explanations for our nation's troubled schools, including the persistence of childhood poverty, higher expectations dictated by a changing global economy, and the sheer size and diversity of the country's educational enterprise. But this report examines another explanation that may not be receiving the attention it warrants. Maze of Mistrust explores the human dynamics those individual and community patterns of communication and behavior that can either smooth the way for change or stymie it at every turn. What emerges from this research is the proposition that local politics, distrust, miscommunication, and unhealthy relationships caused by lingering suspicions and old grudges play a surprisingly powerful role in blocking progress. In effect, the political and community milieu of reform has become a major stumbling block.

Ships Passing In The Night?

August 20, 2014

In this Cousins Research Group Report, David Mathews describes two different civic engagement movements. One is underway in higher education. On campuses across the country, leadership and service learning programs are growing, and students are taught civic skills, including civil dialogue. In addition, university partnerships with nearby communities offer technical assistance, professional advice, and access to institutional resources. The other is occurring off campus, in communities that are trying to cope with natural disasters, economic change, and other problems that threaten everyone's well-being. In these places, citizens say they want to come together as communities to maintain their communities. Unfortunately, they often have difficulty finding institutions that understand their agenda.Why are these two civic movements in danger of passing like the proverbial ships in the night? Mathews explores this disconnect, noting, "It would seem that two civic engagement movements, occurring at the same time and often in the same locations, would be closely allied -- perhaps mutually reinforcing. That doesn't seem to be happening very often." He goes on to suggest how these efforts might become mutually supportive.

Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums

August 6, 2014

When citizens deliberate together about important issues, they can reach decisions and take action together on problems that confront them. Deliberation does not require a certain kind of guide, or framework, or language, or facilitator, but, because it can be difficult to face such choices, supporting materials can make it easier. Many community groups, national organizations, and others, including the National Issues Forums (NIF), develop materials meant to help groups deliberate together over difficult public issues. Through its research, the Kettering Foundation has learned about the kinds of materials that can spark this public work. This document explores the important elements involved in going from an initial topic to having a complete issue guide suitable to use in the kinds of deliberative forums that are the hallmark of the NIF.

Philanthropy and the Limits of Accountability: A Relationship of Respect and Clarity

July 28, 2014

A growing emphasis on accountability and transparency has found its way into a broad range of institutions in the nation's public and private life. From the Obama administration's proclamation on "open government" on his first full day in office, to the emerging demands in multiple states for clear labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, to the persistence of high-stakes testing in public education as a means of "grading" schools, the evidence appears everywhere.No sector -- including philanthropy -- has been immune to the increasing pressure for disclosure and reporting. Major national foundations and small community foundations have all been dealing with the demand to demonstrate impact, and many are recalibrating their giving portfolios in order to have a greater demonstrated effect. "Strategic philanthropy," "impact investing," and "collective impact" are all related strategies that reflect this imperative.In response to this trend, the Kettering Foundation partnered with PACE to invite a distinguished group of foundation executives and thought leaders in the philanthropic and social sectors to a series of three roundtable discussions. Twenty-three participants took part in the conversations (two offered individual interviews instead), which took place in Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, DC, in 2012 and 2013. They explored in depth what "accountability" and "transparency" might mean for philanthropy -- and how philanthropy might respond. This report features their insights and questions.

What Does the Kettering Foundation Do? Research

June 25, 2014

This booklet provides a brief introduction to the Kettering Foundation and its research, the main focus of which is understanding what it takes to make democracy work as it should. It details some of the challenges to democracy and the ways that citizens can work together, even when they disagree, to solve shared problems. A description of the foundation's joint learning exchanges is also provided.

Democracy Beyond the Ballot Box: A New Role for Elected Officials, City Managers, and Citizens

April 11, 2014

This report discussed reasons for the disconnect between citizens and their government. One of them was the advent of the "professional" or "expert" in local government, in the form of the city manager. The council-manager form of local government was the result of a convergence of forces during the Progressive Era, including the rapid urbanization of America's cities, discontent with the corrupt practices of political machines, and the emergence of scientific management principles with the prospect of more efficiently run and accountable public organizations. An effect of this model has been the elevation of the value of technical expertise over citizens' expertise, further distancing citizens from their local government.

Joint Ventures: An Experiment in Community/Professional Co-framing in K-12 Education

March 17, 2014

This is a collaborative report between both the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda.What happens when local school leaders sit down to talk with teachers, parents, and other members of the community about the ends and means of local education? Can people bringing different perspectives and experiences to the issue agree on top goals for their communities? Can they settle on needed changes and decide what signifies genuine progress?To find out, we brought together parents, teachers, school administrators, businesspeople, community organization representatives and nonparent taxpayers in four cities across the U.S. These groups talked about improving education and learning in their community. We call this process "co-framing." The ultimate objective of co-framing is for districts and communities to work together to set goals, identify solutions and assess progress in education. In many respects, the results of this project are enormously encouraging. In others, they suggest barriers that will require additional examination and raise questions for future experimentation and research.

Divided We Fail: Why It's Time for a Broader, More Inclusive Conversation on the Future of Higher Education

March 10, 2014

At state and institutional levels, leaders are discussing and enacting policy changes that could shape the future of higher education for decades -- especially public higher education. But when citizens talk about the mission of higher education today, their conversations are different from those of policymakers. How do their values and concerns intersect with the arguments and ideas leaders are putting forward? What are their hopes for -- and concerns about -- higher education? What do they value? What changes do they need to think about and deliberate?This report to the Kettering Foundation, prepared by Public Agenda, describes the thinking of college students, parents, professors, employers, retirees, and others who gathered in more than 115 public forums, titled "Shaping Our Future," around the country in 2012 -- 2013 to deliberate on the future of higher education. Using a short issue guide, they considered three alternative options for higher education:Emphasizing science and technology education to help the economy;Offering students a rich, broad education and emphasizing principles such as responsibility, integrity, and working together;Expanding opportunity by helping more students attend college and graduate.The aspirations, observations, and sometimes-conflicted feelings voiced by forum participants are summarized in this report, along with some further questions that arose: What does it mean to be well educated? What does it mean to be prepared for a world of work that changes continually? How do we make higher education affordable -- for governments and for students? What do we mean by "equal opportunity" in higher education? The country needs and could benefit from more public deliberation on the future of higher education, bringing leaders together with students, faculty, and citizens in the broader community to engage these questions.

Curbing Health-Care Costs: Are Citizens Ready to Wrestle with Tough Choices?

January 8, 2014

Health-care experts may assume that insurance shields most Americans from the actual costs of their health care, leaving them unconcerned about cost effectiveness. And, in the past, the public seemed relatively disinterested in talking about efforts to contain cost. However, this research raises the question: if we help citizens learn about and deliberate over approaches to contain costs, could they contribute to policy solutions?For this study on curbing health-care costs, average Americans, aged 40 to 65, gathered, in a series of four extended focus groups, to address cost containment in health care. When given the opportunity to learn about and deliberate over various policy proposals, focus group participants became not only willing but eager to consider complicated approaches for containing costs. And they did so thoughtfully and civilly.The research, while modest in scope, provides substantial clues for health-care leaders and policymakers regarding the approaches that the public may be more willing to accept and those that they may resist. It also provides guidance to enable leaders to better communicate with and engage the public on cost-containment approaches.Participants in the study also believed that other members of the public, as well as medical professionals and insurers, could benefit from similar opportunities to deliberate. While participants didn't reach consensus, they all reported a better understanding of viewpoints different from their own. Many remarked that the civility and quality of their deliberations was evidence that health-care leaders and policymakers could compromise.