On the eve of election day, it’s clear philanthropy has a pivotal role in sustaining a strong and inclusive democracy. During a time when public trust in our democratic institutions and productive civic discourse is significantly waning, philanthropy has an important role in supporting communities to build power, revitalize civic engagement and influence public policy.
Toward this end, Philanthropy Northwest has updated the Democracy Lens to shine a light on the state of democracy in our region and to encourage funders to use their levers – grantmaking, partnerships, advocacy and more – to advance a healthier democracy. This data has illuminated concerning trends in the Northwest including a lack of racial diversity in political representation, a decline in local newspapers and limited voter participation. We hope this inspires reflection, learning and action, and prompts you to ask where your organization can play a larger role in efforts to rebuild a stronger democracy – where communities see themselves and their experiences reflected in their civic institutions, elected leadership and policy decisions.
Centering community voice is the theme of our new case study, or “Bright Spot”. The Yakima Free Press Campaign is a model of philanthropic investment and collaboration in Central Washington to support an inclusive news ecosystem informed by local partnerships. The Campaign comes at a time when local journalism in the Northwest and across the country is struggling, and yet, so critical to meaningful civic engagement, robust discourse and accountability of our policymakers.
Finally, the Democracy Lens also highlights opportunities for philanthropy to play a more committed role in strengthening democracy. Working with communities as intentional partners, we can use our collective influence to advance meaningful change. We look forward to continuing to share new resources for this work and hearing your ideas and vision for our network.