University Professor Danielle S. Allen and Rockefeller Brothers Fund President and CEO Stephen B. Heintz presented strategies to strengthen civic engagement at a virtual panel co-hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School Wednesday.
In the discussion moderated by Kennedy School professor Archon Fung, Allen and Heintz shared insights from a bipartisan report published in 2020 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, entitled “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century.” The report — organized by the Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, of which Allen and Heintz are chairs — contains 31 specific recommendations for an enhanced democracy.
Amid deepening polarization in the United States, Heintz said there remains an underexplored pathway to mitigate national division — local, collaborative initiatives. One of the report’s 31 recommendations advocates for the creation of a “national trust for civic infrastructure” that would centralize funding for local initiatives that are often overlooked, according to Heintz.
“We’re not listening to each other — we’re not even arguing together,” he said. “It is these civic spaces, this civic infrastructure, that give us the opportunities to come together, and to know each other so that we’re not just operating from some caricature in our minds.” . . .