History

A Global Recession Connects California to the World

In 2010, Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels sat down with a group of scholars, business leaders and political veterans in California to contemplate the economic and political stresses caused by the global financial crisis, the widespread perception of failing political institutions and Western democracies, and the question of how China’s rise would affect international cooperation and governance in the 21st century.

The tentative ideas that emerged from those original discussions became the foundation for the Berggruen Institute through the launch of local and global initiatives and the publication of Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East, a Financial Times “Best Book of the Year.”

This work began with proposing and implementing new ideas of effective governance through the 21st Century Council, the Council for the Future of Europe, and the Think Long Committee for California. Through these projects, the Institute worked closely with German and French labor ministers to develop a youth jobs plan for Europe; organized repeat delegations of government and industry leaders in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leadership to foster an open dialogue and better understanding between China and the West; and passed the California SB 1253 Ballot Initiative Transparency Act, strengthening the integrity of the state’s initiative process.

In January of 2014, the Institute created The WorldPost, a not-for-profit, online global publication gathering top editors and first-person contributors. In 2018, The WorldPost began publishing global content exclusively on The Washington Post platform.

Concurrently, the Institute formed a new partnership with the University of California Press to publish a new book series on the great transformations.

In 2015, the Institute expanded its mission with the creation of its Berggruen Fellowship Program, which sponsors thinkers working to develop new ideas for addressing the great transformations. The Institute has launched resident fellowship programs at several universities, including Stanford University, Harvard University, NYU, Cambridge and Tsinghua University in Beijing. So far, more than 60 scholars have been awarded Fellowships. Starting in 2018, the Institute has also begun a new fellowship track that embeds researchers directly in laboratories and organizations.

 

Prizing Ideas

The Berggruen Institute presented its first Berggruen Prize in Philosophy and Culture in 2016. The million-dollar award, chosen by an independent jury, is given annually to a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity. The inaugural recipient in 2016 was Charles Taylor, a global leader in deepening the understanding among different intellectual traditions and civilizations. One of the world’s foremost philosophers, Taylor is influential throughout the humanities and social sciences and in public affairs. The 2017 laureate was Onora O’Neill. A broad-ranging philosopher of politics and ethics, international justice and bioethics, O’Neill is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Great Britain.

 

L-R: Song Bing (Director of the China Center), Ray Chambers (UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030), Nicolas Berggruen (Chairman of the Berggruen Institute), Wang Bo (Vice President of Beijing University), and Lynn Zhao (President of Peking University Foundation USA)

Great Transformations, East and West

In 2017, the Institute began to develop a much more robust and integrated approach to programming, coordinating the internal work being done by Institute staff with the work of its Fellows, with a view to generating pathways to understand and address the challenges and opportunity presented by the great transformations, focusing in particular on the Transformations of the Human, the Future of Democracy, the Future of Capitalism and the Future of Geopolitics.

With its increasing commitment to East-West research and dialogue, the Berggruen Institute formed a China Center to lead its academic and policy research and fellowship programs and to establish in-country partnerships with major Chinese academic institutions. In the spring of 2018, the Berggruen Institute and Peking University announced the formation of a joint research center located on campus at Peking University. Focusing on scholarly research and public discourse, the new Peking University Berggruen Institute Research Center establishes a physical presence and formalizes the academic partnership between the Berggruen Institute Los Angeles and Beijing at the prestigious research university in China.

The Institute has committed $25.5 million to establish the Research Center, which will provide a fellowship program dedicated to the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study of the transformations affecting humanity, will include house program activities such as lectures and symposia and will present a schedule of public events. Because of its location in Beijing, the Research Center will engage China’s most outstanding thinkers to examine, share and develop ideas to address global challenges.