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Fourth Founding Project

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Fourth Founding Project logo

If we're to live up to our own time
Then victory won't lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we've made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into
and how we repair it

– Excerpt from The Hill We Climb,
by Amanda Gorman

The Fourth Founding Project harnesses the power of students and the higher education institutions they are affiliated with to make critical reforms to American democracy.

The Fourth Founding Project is a cross-campus collaboration. Our team consists of students, staff, and faculty from universities and colleges throughout the country. By bringing together diverse perspectives and the longevity of civic engagement centers across schools, we want to make lasting progress to strengthen and revivify our democracy.

Our goals

  1. Organize college and university students, faculty, and staff from across the country to work toward critical democratic reforms in the United States by harnessing the power and longevity of postsecondary institutions.
  2. Work collectively as a group to achieve equality of voice and representation through our political institutions and empower voters in a lasting way.
  3. Inspire a culture of commitment to democratic values in American society.

We will achieve our goals by:

  1. Engaging individuals in democratic dialogue, within and beyond higher education institutions.
  2. Modeling democratic deliberation and other democratic practices.
  3. Building capacity—as individuals and collectively as institutions—to engage deeply and courageously on challenging political topics.
  4. Developing sustained relationships with communities and organizations working on democratic reforms and expanding their intellectual and human resources.

Fourth Founding Project Themes

Our team of nearly a dozen schools and colleges identified reforms to collectively focus on for the upcoming year. In deciding which reforms to pursue, we referred to the 31 recommendations to bolster American democracy put forth by Our Common Purpose, a 2021 report produced by bipartisan experts at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Theme: Empowering and engaging voters

  1. Introduce ranked-choice voting in presidential, congressional, and state elections
  2. Give people more choices about where and when they vote, with state-level legislation in all states that supports the implementation of vote centers and early voting.
  3. Design structured and engaging mechanisms for every member of Congress to interact directly and regularly with a random sample of their constituents in an informed and substantive conversation about policy areas under consideration.

Theme: Preparing next generation civic actors

  1. Establish a universal expectation of a year of national service and dramatically expand funding for service programs or fellowships that would offer young people paid service opportunities.
  2. Invest in civic educators and civic education for all ages and in all communities through curricula, ongoing program evaluations, professional development for teachers, and a federal award program that recognizes civic learning achievements. These measures should encompass lifelong (K–12 and adult) civic learning experiences with the full community in mind.

Project Timeline

Fall 2022

    Having identified key reforms to focus on, the Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Haas Center for Public Service will partner to offer a Deliberative Democracy Practicum course during the fall quarter.  The practicum will engage small cohorts (2-4 students) from a broad range of colleges and universities across the country and will culminate with the facilitation of a national deliberative polling event in November. Students or faculty interested in the practicum may contact Tom Schnaubelt (thomasjs@stanford.edu) or Alice Siu (asiu@stanford.edu).  Materials and information about past courses is available here: https://applyingdeliberativepolling.wordpress.com/ 

    Winter/Spring 2023

    Building from lessons learned through the deliberative democracy practicum, Fourth Founding Project partners will develop, propose, and implement reform-focused projects, such as student fellowships/internships, conferences, teach-ins and dialogues. These will be led by students and staff, for students and staff across institutions.

    Resources

    Information Session, 10/21/21