Last year, we announced the creation of the National Institute for Civil Discourse in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011.
The Institute strives to advance the understanding and practice of civil discourse to strengthen our democratic traditions and improve governance and public decision making. It is committed to fostering vigorous debate on issues of national importance, while requiring that participants not question the legitimacy, good faith or motives of those with whom they disagree.
The past year has been filled with many positive developments for the Institute, including an executive conference in Washington D.C., a strategic workshop at the National Press Club, the distribution of research grants, and the addition of Gabrielle Giffords to the executive board. In addition, the Institute received a significant capacity-building grant from the Omidyar Network to hire an executive director and underwrite research talent.
“I’ve been looking forward to spending more time on program development,” said Jane Prescott-Smith, the managing director of the Institute. “The grant from the Omidyar Network will allow us to significantly compress the ramp-up time for the Institute to become fully operational.”
One of the major plans for the next year is the development and funding of a message campaign to persuade constituents to hold their representatives accountable for engaging in constructive dialogue and principled problem solving. Another initiative is targeted directly to elected officials and seeks to build trust across partisan lines.
In an unusual turn of events in the fundraising world, Joe Goldman from the Omidyar Network approached the Institute, expressing interest in supporting its mission. Goldman leads the organization’s efforts to improve civil discourse in the United States.
The Omidyar Network — established by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and his wife, Pamela — makes investments in both nonprofit and for-profit companies and is committed to creating opportunities for people to improve their lives and make powerful, lasting contributions to their communities.
”The future health of the American republic depends on our ability to work across party lines to solve the greatest problems facing our country,” said Goldman. “We are honored to have an opportunity to support the Institute and its important mission of improving the quality of discourse in our nation’s politics.”
“We are so grateful to the Omidyar Network for investing in this Institute,” said Brint Milward, the director of the School of Government and Public Policy, who has been sharing leadership duties for the Institute with Sally Rider in the James E. Rogers College of Law. “Their gift will allow us to take the momentum we’ve been building this year to a whole new level.”