As summer ends and we kick off the academic year here in the US, Horizons continues to grapple with the inherent tensions of different approaches taken within the broad ecosystem of social change. One clear fault line lies along a time horizons of gradual versus radical change. This is especially evident in the conversations unfolding about the linkages between capitalism and democracy. For example, this recent podcast with the Secretary-General of International IDEA and the chief economics commentator at the Financial Times was a fascinating discussion on needed reforms included in a new book about the Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. Whereas other conversations are unfolding about: radical new ways that humans might govern themselves that are less technocratic; totally new ways of envisioning our economic systems; and, how we might redefine concepts of security and perceptions of insecurity.
Another fault line is how we grapple with the ways that progressives should bridge across difference within social movements, while also appreciating what it will take to achieve a multi-racial, inclusive democracy in the US; and, the cultural and political change that can be achieved over time by movements like Black Lives Matter that is turning 10 this year.
We bring up these tensions not to seek definitive solutions, but rather to acknowledge that there are many entry points to this work, and what’s important is to be in conversation with each other, while looking for signals of the change we want to see in the world. This is why the practice of sensemaking is so important to the Horizons’ team, both internally and together with colleagues. We plan to share more of our own sensemaking practices externally, such as this short video amongst some of the Horizons team discussing the recent “Alabama brawl” and implications for how we think about incorporating a racial justice lens into our pro-democracy organizing.
Appreciation and respect to all our wonderful partners who engage in all this sensemaking with us! Enjoy these additional resources we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to this month:
Edited by Archon Fung, David Moss, & Odd Arne Westad
Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The Tobin Project recently released this free online compendium analyzing the factors that make democracy resilient or fragile. “The volume’s collaborators…explore eleven episodes of democratic breakdown, ranging from ancient Athens to Weimar Germany to present-day Turkey, Russia, and Venezuela. Strikingly, in every case, various forms of democratic erosion long preceded the final democratic breakdown. Although no single causal factor emerges as decisive… some important commonalities (including extreme political polarization, explicitly anti-democratic political actors, and significant political violence) stand out across the cases. Moreover, the notion of democratic culture, while admittedly difficult to define and even more difficult to measure, may play a role in all of them.”
This is Signals
Reframe, alongside the Women’s March and Political Research Associates embarked on an 18-month journey “to unravel the connections between QAnon and Q-adjacent networks, their values, narratives, and the disinformation that surrounds it all. In an era where misinformation and conspiracy theories thrive, it’s imperative to understand the terrain so we can organize our communities to be better equipped to fight for a democratic future rooted in justice, equity, and liberation. By critically examining the values, messages, and narratives that emerge from these networks, we hope to encourage a nuanced understanding of their impact on our communities and shifting societal expectations of governance and democracy as a whole.”
by Rajiv Vinnakota, The Institute for Citizens & Scholars
A new consortium recently launched, the College Presidents for Civic Preparedness, made up of 15 college presidents with diverse perspectives across the political spectrum, but who agree that civic preparedness is essential to the academic experience and campus life. The consortium is also spearheading the Campus Call for Free Expression, a project to promote free expression on individual campuses, such as presidential speeches, training sessions, guest speakers, courses, and artistic endeavors. “The Campus Call embraces different viewpoints, focusing on upholding and advancing the principles of free expression and critical inquiry that are crucial in preparing young people to become empowered citizens.”
by Charles Lane, Washington Post Opinion
This article summarizes a recent study of social scientists: “Does Anger Drive Populism?” – answering in the affirmative, but with a major caveat. “Anger alone cannot account for recent US vote shifts in favor of populist candidates (of both the left and right). Rather, the trends reflect a wider mix of negative emotions such as sadness, stress, and worry… It’s a portrait of populism as an expression of dismay and disenchantment, not just resentment.”
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK has uploaded all the videos from their second annual conference, Next Frontiers. We would especially recommend the recording of this short presentation by Vanessa Andreotti discussing her new book Hospicing Modernity, where she explores four socially sanctioned forms of denial that our world is changing irrevocably. She describes the change using a metaphor of the House that Modernity Built and extols the need to go beyond reform because “more modernity is not an option, given the violence required to keep modernity in place.”
Othering & Belonging Institute
Check out this short, fun video with Ashley Gallegos, Belonging Coordinator at the Othering & Belonging Institute as she introduces their newly released Belonging Design Principles. “This distinct belonging framework includes a set of principles and practices that can root out structural inequality and exclusion of all kinds while helping us turn toward, rather than against, each other. Beyond a call for inclusion into pre-existing structures built to serve only some of us, belonging asks each of us to commit to co-creating new structures built for everyone.
Fission’s DWeb Social
You can watch this short presentation about the AdTech watchdog Check My Ads Institute who are seeking to cut disinformation off at the source, acknowledging that bigotry and hate are fueled and funded around the world by the digital advertising industry. Co-founder, Claire Atkin recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review highlighting the proactive role businesses can play in protecting against democratic decline: Are Your Ads Funding Disinformation? “Propaganda thrives on money, ads, and data. Ad revenue helps propagandists multiply their efforts across networks of content across the web. Data enables propagandists to develop detailed user profiles that help them target people who are susceptible to lies and bigotry. Finally, the ads themselves — particularly those from blue-chip advertisers — lend signals of legitimacy to visitors to disinformation websites.”
Podcast Series from The Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative
Check out all the podcasts in Season One in this series about humans from around the world who are dedicating their lives to building a more free and just world. We especially recommend Episode 6, The Making of a Democratic Community in an Authoritarian Landscape with Isabella Picón from Labo Ciudadano in Venezuela. The title of the series comes from abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore: “What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces, experiments and possibilities.”
Podcast from System Catalysts
Daniella Ballou-Aares, the CEO of the Leadership Now Project and her colleague, Anoop Prakash, the Wisconsin Chapter Lead, discuss the formation of a group of concerned businesses to launch the Leadership Now Project and the power of leveraging networks to protect and renew democracy in the US. The actions that businesses collectively took in Wisconsin during the 2020 election cycle, on a bipartisan basis offer a particularly important example of the proactive role the business community can and should play to uphold democratic norms and values.
Peace: We Build It! Podcast from the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP)
In this podcast AfP Executive Director Liz Hume “discusses identity-based grievances, polarization, and social cohesion in the US. While conflict is inevitable, violent conflict is not, but it takes correct analysis of conflict drivers, resources, political will at all levels, and everyday people and communities working to prevent conflict and build sustainable peace. Liz welcomes three experts from across the political spectrum to discuss peacebuilding and conflict in the US” including Peter Coleman from Columbia University, Lisa Sharon Haper from Freedom.us, and Charles Lieske from Mediation West in Nebraska.
by Lawrence Freedman, The New Statesman
“I want to be a part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made.” Barbie
This emeritus professor of war studies at Kings College writes, “all accounts of relationships between characters resembling humans raise issues of power and strategy, and Barbie is no exception. After all, to want to be part of “the people making meaning” could be a strategist’s creed.” So, Prof. Freedman delves into a wide-ranging strategic analysis of the movie Barbie. Spoiler alert – this article “may make little sense even if you have watched the movie but will make none at all if you have not and may contain sufficient information to spoil it if you intend to.”