Democracy is about people.
The people who live in a democracy are free to choose their leaders, speak their minds, and live in peace. At least, that’s the ideal—one that can be challenging to realize in our complex and polarized world. Indeed, it’s often said that democracy is the most challenging form of government.
At the Ford Foundation, we believe democracy is worth the challenge.
This is not in spite of but precisely because democracies don’t succeed on their own. To thrive, a democracy needs people to participate: to get informed about the issues of the day, pay attention to what their representatives are doing, hold those representatives accountable, and make their own voices heard.
That’s why we invest in the individual leaders, essential institutions, and pioneering ideas that uphold and advance the values of democracy, as well as the indispensable role people play in realizing it.
Inequality undermines democracy.
Over eight decades, we have worked to support and sustain the conditions that are essential for democracy to flourish. Inequality is a profound threat to those efforts, because it is the enemy of optimism and hope. All people are predisposed to mobility and aspiration. But inequality makes us less hopeful—which in turn makes us less trusting of, and committed to, the rules of the game and the institutions that affect our lives.
That’s why addressing the damaging effects of inequality is central to realizing the promise of democracy. It’s also why we believe people can and will rise to meet its challenges.
Building on our legacy of working to create a more just and peaceful world for everyone, the following are just a few examples of institutions we are proud to support today.
Protecting the rule of law
By investing in organizations like the ACLU, the Coalition for Public Safety, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, we seek to make the justice system more fair and effective, and protect the safety and dignity of all people.
Ensuring freedom of information and expression
Democracy depends on an informed citizenry. Facts, evidence, and data matter. That’s why we support the Center for Public Integrity, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which led groundbreaking reporting on the Panama Papers. It’s also why we have invested in public broadcasting throughout our history, and continue to fund it today.
Strengthening people's participation
We support efforts to ensure that all people can take part in political processes, to increase trust in those processes, and to make public institutions more transparent and accountable. This includes funding the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, the Center for Public Interest Research, and the Economic Policy Institute.
Below you'll find a collection of stories that speak to these and related efforts. We'll be adding to it in the coming months.