Ford Foundation Learning Session on Political Participation and Social Change

On March 9th in New York, Hahrie will be working with the Ford Foundation to lead a discussion about participation and social change. See details below.images.jpeg

Dear Colleagues, 

Democracy in the US faces a triple crisis. Barriers to voting and other forms of participation are being reinforced just as protections against discrimination have come under assault. The role of money in politics means that people and corporations of means can exercise undue influence on the political process and skew the priorities of elected representatives. And too many people—particularly of low income backgrounds—are unmotivated to participate politically, believing that their engagement makes no difference. In the face of these challenges, foundations have supported a range of initiatives to restore the franchise and the promise of democracy, with mixed success. What does the evidence show about what works well and what is less effective? What sorts of frameworks could we employ to make political participation possible, probable and powerful?

Last fall, we embarked on a project with Dr. Hahrie Han to evaluate our grant making strategies and explore these questions. This endeavor sought to explore the relationship between participation and governance (including better policy outcomes), better understand the driving forces of policy change, examine why participation continues to be so problematic in the United States, and identify promising avenues for action. 

We invite you to a presentation and discussion of Dr. Han’s findings on Wednesday, February 17 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., to be held at the Ford Foundation. We hope to use her work as an opportunity to kick-start a conversation among grantees and program staff from our Civic Engagement and Government team about our new strategic directions and about the different factors thought to influence change, such as public opinion, money, narrative frames, grassroots people power, or elections. We hope to circulate Dr. Han’s report in advance of the meeting. The meeting will take place in two parts. In part one, Dr. Han will present her findings over lunch in a large group-setting. In part two, we will build off her findings and recommendations and discuss in a small-group setting the conditions under which participation can affect governance (and vice versa) in the context of the Foundation’s changing strategy. 

Please complete this sign-up form if you or one representative from your organization are able to participate in the meeting in person. 

From a preview of the preliminary report, I can assure you that Hahrie’s findings and suggestions are truly insightful and challenging for our work. I look forward to our discussions.


Rakesh Rajani

Director, Civic Engagement and Government
Ford Foundation 
320 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA
+1 212.573.4822  @rakeshrajani
[email protected]

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