Strategy 6 Inspire a Culture of Commitment to American Constitutional Democracy and One Another

Develop Civic Faith

Strategy 6
Inspire a Culture of Commitment to American Constitutional Democracy and One Another

Eric Liu speaks at a Civic Saturday event

Recommendation 6.3

Launch a philanthropic initiative to support the growing civil society ecosystem of civic gatherings, ceremonies, and rituals focused on ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions of our civic values.

Read in the Report

The Problem

Democracy works only if enough of us believe it works. Today, fewer and fewer people have faith in our democratic system and in their fellow Americans.

26%
of American millennials believe choosing leaders through free elections is “unimportant”

The Solution

Faith in democracy requires communal effort and culture: shared ceremonies, intentional forms of play, work, storytelling, conversation, and gathering.

These rituals allow people to come together to try to close the gap between our high ideals as Americans and our persistently unjust realities.

In this time of declining trust and common purpose, Americans have already formed groups dedicated to encouraging inclusive self-government. We believe these new groups should be supported by established organizations in all fields and sectors so they can develop together into a thriving ecosystem. This initiative would activate funders and others with convening and storytelling power to help foster a civic spirit.

Examples

This is a dynamic field, with new examples appearing frequently.

  • Citizen University, a nonprofit led by Commission cochair Eric Liu, organizes a regular gathering called Civic Saturday that is a civic analogue to a faith gathering. Citizen University also runs a Civic Seminary to train catalytic leaders from communities around the country to lead such gatherings. Now in more than seventy-five cities and towns throughout the country, Civic Saturdays are part of a spreading civic revival.
  • The #ListenFirst Coalition is bringing together hundreds of initiatives around the country that teach habits of compassionate listening in civic life.
  • Living Room Conversations has seeded thousands of cross-ideological meetings in people’s homes and via online video conference that build empathy across difference. These conversations center on values and the origin stories of people’s values before getting to policy issues.
  • The American Project at Pepperdine University has fostered new public conversations about what they call “a conservatism of connection” meant to counter the atomizing, morally corrosive power of both markets and the state.
  • Weave: The Social Fabric Project, an initiative of the Aspen Institute founded by New York Times columnist David Brooks, a member of this Commission, is building a movement of “weavers of the social fabric” that invites people to work together across ideological, racial, and regional differences.

Champion

Citizen UniversityMade By Us, and CivicLex committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

Citizen University is a national nonprofit focused on building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country. It was founded in Seattle in 2012 by Eric Liu and Jená Cane. We at Citizen University envision a great civic revival across our nation--our dream is a country in which Americans are steeped in a sense of civic character, educated in the tools of civic power, and are problem-solving contributors in a self-governing community. 

Made By Us brings together the nation’s history museums and sites in an unparalleled collaboration to better engage young Americans with history for informed civic engagement, leading up to the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. Led by familiar names such as the Smithsonian, Monticello and the National Archives, and driven by a coalition of over 80 organizations, Made By Us creates programs and digital platforms to connect young people in every corner of the nation with our shared past, present and future.  

CivicLex is a civic education and media organization based in Fayette County, Kentucky that works to help residents understand and get involved with the issues, policies, and processes that shape where they live. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 6.3 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2020

  • Establish a working group to design a new initiative

2021

  • Launch a new initiative to spotlight the ecosystem 

2024

  • Report on the initiative activity and how the ecosystem and participation has grown