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Joe Goldman
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Breakout Session, Values Based
Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 10:50 AM

Philanthropy’s Role in Strengthening US Democracy: Supporting the Foundations of Our Political System in Volatile Times

Joe Goldman, Democracy Fund 

The fragility of democratic institutions in the United States has become widely apparent, regardless of the party to which you belong. Over the past few years, Democracy Fund has worked with other donors and philanthropists to help them to better understand the nature of the challenges facing our political system and what philanthropy can do about it. Along with practicable insights and valuable lessons from Democracy Fund’s own work in the sector, this session will support a dialogue about steps philanthropists can take to enter and bolster our democracy. Democracy Fund will suggest effective ways philanthropists can help improve the health of our democratic system beyond political giving and ask the audience to present other ways they can make a difference and the barriers that are keeping them from doing so. Without a concentrated philanthropic effort that takes an innovative and collaborative approach, our imperiled democracy could slide further into decay. From reviving local journalism to improving how we administer our elections to supporting Congress’s capacity to function to defending core American values like pluralism, philanthropic support can ensure our democracy thrives and that all Americans can fully participate in shaping its future. 

Attendees will:

  1. Deepen their understanding of the challenges facing American democracy.
  2. Gain understanding of the different avenues that philanthropists can take to improve the health of American democracy.

  3. Learn about how the philanthropic space is current organized around American democracy and the strategies being adopted by leading philanthropies.




Joe Goldman, Democracy Fund

Joe Goldman is the President of the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. He is also the President of Democracy Fund Voice, previously Democracy Fund Action. Before joining the Democracy Fund, Joe was an Investment Director at Omidyar Network, where he incubated the Democracy Fund for three years.

Joe has spent his career working to strengthen democratic institutions through public deliberation and policy reform. Previously, Joe was Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks, where he directed and facilitated large-scale public deliberations across the country, including the Unified New Orleans Planning Process after Hurricane Katrina and the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site after 9/11.

Joe has written extensively about the theory and practice of deliberative democracy and spoken about the value of public deliberation in venues around the world.Joe has also engaged the public from inside government. He managed Mayor Anthony Williams’ Neighborhood Action initiative in Washington, DC, which engaged thousands of residents in shaping the city’s budget priorities. Neighborhood Action was named Program of the Year by the International Association of Public Participation.

Joe also managed the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission’s Common Ground regional planning process in Chicago, which later received the Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association for its innovative use of technology and broad community outreach.

Joe was a Public Service Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he received a master’s degree in public policy. He graduated with honors in political science from Vassar College.

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