Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

The bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was launched to explore how best to respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life and to enable more Americans to participate as effective citizens in a diverse 21st-century democracy. 

The Commission issued 31 recommendations for strengthening democracy in the report Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century. The recommendations include reforming political institutions, investing in civil society, and transforming our political culture. The recommendations are rooted in six imperatives, or strategies:

  1. to achieve equality of voice and representation through our political institutions;
  2. to empower voters in a lasting way;
  3. to ensure the responsiveness of our political institutions;
  4. to dramatically expand the capacity of civil society organizations that foster “bridging” across lines of difference;
  5. to build civic information architecture that supports common purpose; and
  6. to inspire a culture of commitment to American constitutional democracy and one another.

Commission Cochairs

Danielle Allen (Harvard University)
Stephen Heintz (Rockefeller Brothers Fund)
Eric Liu (Citizens University)

Learn more about the people and process that produced Our Common Purpose here

With the publication and broad distribution Our Common Purpose, the focus is now on advancing initiatives to achieve empowerment for all, responsive and effective governance, and a resilient and healthy civic culture, characterized by a shared commitment of Americans to one another and constitutional democracy.

Champion Organizations
More than 60 organizations are champions of Our Common Purpose and have pledged their support to "improve the resilience of our republic, strengthen our nation’s common purpose, and restore trust in one another and our institutions."
Theory of Change
Our Common Purpose seeks to renew the practice of democratic citizenship through reforms to three fundamental spheres of democratic life: political institutions and processes, civic culture, and civil society organizations and activities.


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.

Join the organizations supporting the recommendations.