Academy Article

A Convening on the Power of Civic Infrastructure: A Community Solution with National Potential


The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands partnered with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences from May 6 – 8, 2022, to host Strengthening American Democracy through Civic Investment, a historic effort to bring attention to the chronic underinvestment in the civic health of our nation’s communities and to mobilize resources to support the development of local civic infrastructure. The convening was rooted in Our Common Purpose, a report from a bipartisan commission at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and Spark a Culture of Civic Renewal by 2030, a report from Strengthening Our American Republic. One of the core recommendations to reinvent American democracy for the 21st century in the American Academy’s report is to Create a Trust for Civic Infrastructure.

Civil society practitioners, scholars, and philanthropic leaders joined with members of the bipartisan Commission that issued Our Common Purpose to discuss the need to invest substantial and sustainable resources in the nation’s civic infrastructure—the local spaces, programs, and people that encourage residents to interact, find common ground, and solve problems together.

The meeting at Sunnylands provided participants the opportunity to analyze how the instruments of healthy civic life – be it a renovated park, a local online source for news, or reimagined town meetings – can promote the sense of common purpose that is necessary for a resilient and robust democracy. The discussions were a foundation for imagining an investment in civic infrastructure that would benefit individuals and communities across the country.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed that the American Academy of Arts & Sciences would continue to work with philanthropists, scholars, and practitioners to refine the structure and strategy for launching a Trust for Civic Infrastructure. The work undertaken at Sunnylands laid the foundation for a new entity that could gain the support of philanthropists, practitioners, and all who believe in the power of civic infrastructure to strengthen our faith in one another and in our democracy.




Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Danielle Allen, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric P. Liu