Academy Article
January 2023

Our Common Purpose - Reflections at the Midpoint


The Academy report Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, released in June 2020, was an ambitious call to action for democracy renovation. The bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democracy Citizenship rooted the report in the belief that a healthy constitutional democracy depends on a virtuous cycle in which responsive political institutions foster a healthy civic culture of participation and responsibility, while a healthy civic culture keeps our political institutions responsive and inclusive.

Since the report’s release, the Academy has joined with partner organizations to launch interdisciplinary working groups, commission new research, and engage policymakers. The collective efforts have inspired legislation, catalyzed public and private investment in civic life, and broadened support for the report’s recommendations and theory of change. This article sets forth some of these key achievements.  


  • Enlarging the House of Representatives. REAL House Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Equal Voices Act, introduced by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL). 
  • Responsive Government. Trust in Public Service Act, introduced by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), would improve trust in the federal government by establishing customer experience as a central measure of performance for agencies and the federal government.
  • Connected Communities. Building Civic Bridges Act, introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), establishes an office and pilot grant program within the Corporation for National and Community Service to support civic bridge building.
  • Social Media as Civic Media. Platform Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA), introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), would require social media companies to share more data with the public and researchers.
  • National Service. The American Rescue Plan Act appropriated $1 billion to expanding national service. The American Climate Corps launched by the Biden-Harris administration to inspire young Americans to build a climate resilient economy.
  • Invest in Civic Education. Civics Secures Democracy Act, introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), requires the National Assessment of Education Progress in civics and history to be administered every two years to certain grade levels and establishes the Civics Secures Democracy Fund.


  • Ranked Choice Voting. In 2023, 24 cities and counties used RCV in their elections – two of them, Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, used RCV for the first time to elect their mayors. Seven cities across five states voted to adopt or expand the use of RCV.
  • Empowered voters. In 2023, at least 23 states enacted 47 laws that make it easier to vote. Minnesota and Pennsylvania adopted automatic voter registration and authorized young voters to pre-register before they turn 18. Michigan, New Mexico, and Minnesota adopted automatic voter registration for formerly incarcerated individuals. New York will require high schools to distribute voter registration forms to students.
  • National Service. The Serve Act established a first-in-the nation public service year program for high school graduates in Maryland. Arizona, Maryland, Minnesots, North Carolina, and Utah launched state-level Climate Corps programs. Utah Governor Spencer Cox announced two executive orders to promote service and volunteerism statewide.
  • America at 250. 42 states and territories launched commissions to develop programming to commemorate the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026.
  • The Academy convened a working group to develop a blueprint for the Trust which has been used to build support from the philanthropic community and civil society leaders.
  • Now under fiscal sponsorship, the Trust has commitments from seven major philanthropies totaling $24 million and is actively recruiting a set of funders that reflect the diversity of America.
  • The Trust will launch in 2024 with a 5-year demonstration phase to experiment and test different approaches of working in partnership with local communities and supporting civic infrastructure building.

Support for advancing the recommendations in Our Common Purpose is provided by the  S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, The Suzanne Nora Johnson and David G. Johnson Foundation, the Clary Family Charitable Fund, Alan and Lauren Dachs, Sara Lee Schupf and the Lubin Family Foundation, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, and David M. Rubenstein.

The report is online, as are current Our Common Purpose initiatives.



Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

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