The Future of Democracy

Democracies across the world are operating in a very different environment from the world in which they first emerged. Powerful non-state actors and hyper-connected networks are operating with deterministic effect beyond the reach of governments. The emergence of a large, unregulated digital commons is providing new tools for manipulation and propaganda by nefarious forces hostile to democratic values. The customized media marketplace, combined with the hostile dialogue on which social media thrives, is robbing societies of a shared narrative and is deepening political divisions.

As recent elections on both sides of the Atlantic have demonstrated, these forces are exerting pressure on institutions built for a simpler time, causing decay of the state and decline of expertise rendered impotent by systemic changes over which they have little control. The impotence of government to protect people from uncontrolled migration, terrorist attacks and financial meltdowns, combined with the perceived capture by elites, has led to anti-establishment movements and populist uprisings. The rise of authoritarianism is a symptom of the breakdown of the institutional trust on which democracy has long relied.

The apparatus of democracy needs to be updated for the 21st century in order to preserve democratic values and the rule of law. Technology and globalization have driven significant changes in society and the economy, which are not reflected in our institutions. Our challenges are global, but government is national or local. Power is increasingly in networks, but our institutions are still islands of hierarchy. As technology has created opportunities for connection and participation, social and cultural expectations have shifted in this direction, but our institutions have been slow to adopt new models for engagement. Institutions must operate with the transparency and responsiveness that citizens have come to expect while also proving competent to govern. In addition, the public square must be renewed to support the informed, civil deliberation a democracy requires.

The Future of Democracy program will bring together thoughtful leaders and leading thinkers to re-imagine democracy for the new era. Together we will develop new ideas for how to reinvent democratic institutions and rebuild the public square for the 21st century.



YES is a campaign to build broad-based commitments from governments to invest in jobs, national service, and other opportunities for young people to work together, acquire skills and training, and build common purpose and solidarity in protecting their communities from climate change.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a rare crisis that all states are facing simultaneously. Although imperfect—as a result of variations in population, geography and even the evolving epidemiology—this test measures not only pandemic preparedness and response but more importantly state capacity and social resilience. The following report contains four case studies of different countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each report first looks at the pre-pandemic preparedness of the country in question, then presents the strategy that was implemented—including a detailed timeline of action—and an assessment of its performance.

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Working with leading policymakers, technologists, journalists, thinkers, and civic leaders, the project investigates how social media and other new communications technology are impacting democracies, and how democracies can respond to this new Digital Age.

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Develops comprehensive approaches to repairing California’s broken system of governance while evaluating policies and institutions vital for the state’s long-term future.

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Sense LA, created by Berggruen Fellow Gabriel Kahan, is a new program for social cohesion and public participation. A work of Socially Engaged Art which aims to create an urban collective-intelligence resource to help people from all backgrounds and abilities to have a voice in their community, understand their city, guide multi-pronged decision making, and to cultivate shared perspectives.

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The Council for the Future of Europe was established in 2011, in the midst of a fiscal and economic crisis that threatened the progress of the union, to promote a common European discourse on how to achieve a strong and more resilient union. The Council aims to inspire confidence amongst European citizens, to influence actors at the highest level without prejudice, and to address the central issues at stake.

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