Since its founding, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has worked to promote a strong and virtuous nation. Our charter states that the “end and design” of the American Academy is to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” Today, this effort involves projects designed to advance knowledge about the nation’s institutions and to develop innovative solutions to problems facing American society. Projects in this area interpret the term “institution” broadly, focusing on all of the constituent elements of government and civil society. These projects address how Americans interact with social structures, how these experiences prepare people to make a positive contribution to a diverse nation, and how these institutions might operate differently in the twenty-first century. The Academy shares this research through publications, conferences, and active outreach.
Program Advisory Committee
Frances McCall Rosenbluth
New York University
Alan M. Dachs
Washington University in St. Louis
California Community Foundation
Harvard Business School
James M. Stone
Plymouth Rock Companies
Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship
The Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship was a multiyear project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Commission launched in 2018 to explore the factors that both encourage and discourage people from becoming engaged in their communities. The Commission’s final report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, seeks to improve democratic engagement in the United States with a set of recommendations that reach across political institutions, civic culture, and civil society to revitalize American democracy by increasing representation, empowering voters, making institutions more responsive, and restoring our civic culture. The Academy has committed to make significant progress on all of the thirty-one recommendations by 2026, the nation’s 250th anniversary. In collaboration with champion organizations and leaders from across the nation, who are committed to the advancement of the recommendations, the Academy will host public events and targeted briefings; provide expert testimony and thought leadership; convene experts and practitioners for knowledge sharing and strategy development; produce op-eds and other earned media; and in other ways stand up and support the ongoing implementation of Our Common Purpose.
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
David M. Rubenstein
Alan Dachs and Lauren Dachs
Joan and Irwin Jacobs
The Lubin Family Foundation and Sara Lee Schupf
The Suzanne Nora Johnson and David G. Johnson Foundation
Clary Family Charitable Gift
The Internet and Engaged Citizenship, David Karpf (2019)
The Data Driving Democracy, Christina Couch (2020)
The Political and Civic Engagement of Immigrants, Caroline Brettell (2020)
Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century (2020)
Making Justice Accessible
The two projects within the Making Justice Accessible initiative addressed the challenge of providing legal services to low-income Americans.
The first project, Designing Legal Services for the 21st Century, gathered information about the national need for improved legal access and advanced a set of clear national recommendations for closing the “civil justice gap” between supply of and demand for legal services. In September 2020, the project released its final report, Civil Justice for All, calling for the legal profession, the courts, law schools, tech professionals, and partners from other fields to join together to provide legal assistance to many more people in need. The report recommends targeted investments, simplified procedures, greater coordination and new partnerships among a range of sectors, and new advocates who are trained to provide more accessible legal assistance.
The second project, Data Collection and Legal Services for Low-Income Americans, issued its report, Measuring Civil Justice for All, in February 2021. The publication, a complementary white paper to the Civil Justice for All report, identifies sources of existing data on legal services and unrepresented civil litigation nationwide. This project creates a blueprint for future data collection efforts, including establishing a research agenda for scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers. Participants include representatives of the courts, legal aid providers, and foundations, as well as legal scholars and social scientists.
The related Winter 2019 issue of Dædalus on “Access to Justice” is a multidisciplinary study of the civil justice gap, examining new models for the delivery of legal aid.
DESIGNING LEGAL SERVICES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
John G. Levi
Legal Services Corporation; Sidley Austin LLP
Harvard Law School
Kenneth C. Frazier
Merck & Co.
DATA COLLECTION AND LEGAL SERVICES FOR LOW-INCOME AMERICANS
University of Chicago
Arizona State University
David M. Rubenstein
“Access to Justice,” Dædalus, edited by Lincoln Caplan, Lance Liebman & Rebecca Sandefur (2019)
Civil Justice for All (2020)
Measuring Civil Justice for All (2021)
Commission on Reimagining Our Economy
For many Americans, the first two decades of the twenty-first century have been marked by economic uncertainty. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest of the last year highlighted the life-and-death consequences of structural inequality, Americans across the country faced severe financial challenges. Financial conditions have threatened lives and livelihoods and exacerbated distrust in political, economic, and community institutions. As noted in Our Common Purpose, the Academy’s report on the practice of democratic citizenship, economic conditions influence democratic engagement and trust in institutions. Historically high levels of inequality give some people a far louder voice than others in the political conversation, and financial insecurity keeps many Americans from participating in the democratic process altogether. Similarly, the years since the 2008 financial crisis have been marked by skepticism of the free market, financial institutions, and an economic system that has concentrated wealth and opportunity in certain parts of the country.
The multiyear Commission on Reimagining Our Economy will study the relationship between economic conditions and social and institutional trust in the United States. In the face of a global pandemic and the fallout from the 2020 election, addressing these issues is especially urgent. This project will explore how to confront the distrust wrought by the economic cleavages of the last fifty years and how the nation can craft a model of good political and economic citizenship that repairs rather than rends the social fabric. This project completed a one-year planning phase in the summer of 2021, and held its first Commission meeting in October 2021.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
formerly, Young & Rubicam Brands
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
C&P Buttenwieser Foundation
David M. Rubenstein