Madison Initiative

Overview

The Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative focuses on strengthening the values, norms and institutions of U.S. democracy – in particular, Congress – in a time of political polarization.

Launched in 2014, the nonpartisan initiative supports organizations across the ideological spectrum — academic researchers, advocacy groups, think tanks, and civic leadership organizations — who seek to understand and improve the political system so that our elected representatives are better equipped to solve society’s greatest problems.

Goals

  • Foster bipartisan problem-solving in Congress by supporting the kind of leadership and relationships that it requires.
  • Strengthen Congress as an institution – its rules, norms, and processes as well as its capacity to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.
  • Improve campaign finance and electoral rules of the game in order to set the stage for negotiation and compromise in Congress.

Our Grantmaking

R Street Institute
for support of the Governance Project
Proteus Fund
for support of More Equitable Democracy, a new project to support alternative electoral systems
New York University
for support of political polarization research by the Social Media and Political Participation Lab
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
for general operating support

Our Team

Kelly Born
Kelly Born 
Program Officer
 @kellykborn
Vidya Krishnamurthy
Vidya Krishnamurthy 
Director of Communications
 @kvidyak
Kristy Bernard Tsadick 
Deputy General Counsel
Evan Underwood 
Grants Officer

Learn More

It is hard to look at events in recent years without concluding that democracy in America is in trouble. Surveys routinely find that most Americans think poorly of the federal government and, in particular, of Congress. Such frustration and mistrust do not bode well for our system of government.

Against this backdrop, the Hewlett Foundation considered how to help alleviate the problem of polarization, with a special focus on Congress. Our initiative is named for James Madison, who warned against “the mischiefs of faction.” He and his peers among the founders understood that governing a nation as diverse as the United States would require leaders capable of reaching agreement among representatives of people with very different, and often conflicting, interests, beliefs and agendas.

We are explicitly agnostic on particular policy outcomes, and work with organizations from across the political spectrum with whom we share the goal of improving our system of government. To proceed otherwise would miss the point. Moreover, as a private charitable foundation, we are strictly prohibited from attempting to influence election outcomes, including participating in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective office.  Ultimately, the health of a representative democracy depends on whether its legislative institutions are working in ways that its citizens support.

The Madison Initiative was approved by the foundation’s board in 2014 and has been renewed through 2021.

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