Photo of a demonstrator holding up a sign that reads "Power to the People"

UC Berkeley Launches New Democracy Policy Initiative

Protecting democracy through innovation, leadership, and research

The launch is backed by $3.5 million in grants from Haas Family Philanthropies and the Levi Strauss Foundation

SAN FRANCISCO/BERKELEY — Responding to the alarming rise in threats to U.S. democracy, UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy is launching a research and practice hub focused on helping California become a model of inclusive, representative, and multiracial democracy for its residents and the nation. The Goldman School’s Democracy Policy Initiative is made possible by $3.5 million in grants from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Levi Strauss Foundation, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and the Peter E. Haas, Jr. Fund. The initiative will be led by Professor Angela Glover Blackwell, founder-in-residence of PolicyLink, who will serve as the Democracy Policy Initiative’s Chief Vision Officer, in collaboration with other faculty experts from the Goldman School and throughout UC Berkeley.  

Recent years have seen a marked increase in hyperpolarization, voter suppression, attacks on election infrastructure, and threats of political violence. The new initiative seeks to inspire and support policy innovation, leadership, and research to address these and other issues. The work of the initiative will be rooted in community partnership and focused on impact for populations  that historically have been denied equal power and voice in American democracy.

More specifically, DPI will: 

  1. Develop a new cadre of democracy practitioners and champions who can apply their learnings and training from academia across other sectors such as government, nonprofits and the corporate world. 
  2. Spur innovation and experiments to strengthen democracy.
  3. Connect academia with grassroots and community groups in order to study and advance promising solutions on the ground.

The launch of the initiative comes as grassroots groups in California and nationwide are advancing innovative strategies for protecting Americans’ voting rights, democratizing campaign finance, and combating racial gerrymandering, among other changes.

“In addition to defending our core democratic systems, we need to innovate with creative strategies to build a more inclusive and representative democracy where everyone has a voice,” said Cathy Cha, president and CEO of the Haas, Jr. Fund. “With a history of connecting academia to real community impact, the Goldman School of Public Policy is the perfect home for this work.” 

The Goldman School of Public Policy was established in 1969 and is ranked as the number-one graduate program in public policy analysis and social policy in the country in U.S. News & World Report.

“We are living in a historic moment that presents both crisis and opportunity for democracy,” said Goldman School of Public Policy Dean David C. Wilson. “Through the Democracy Policy Initiative, the Goldman School will connect UC Berkeley’s vast academic expertise to support the advocates and grassroots organizations pressing for democracy protections and fighting a tidal wave of anti-democratic policy changes. 

The launch of the Democracy Policy Initiative marks an unprecedented partnership among the Haas family philanthropies and the Levi Strauss Foundation and is a reflection of their shared commitment to strengthening democracy in California and beyond.

“As a funder committed to a more inclusive democracy, we believe the Democracy Policy Initiative’s community-centered approach will help build a diverse, next-generation cadre of democracy policy leaders and provide them with the tools they need to advance justice and equity,” said Fatima Angeles, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation.