What is Courageous Democracy?
Like you, we’re concerned about divisiveness and rancor in our society. We took what we have learned over the years with our clients through the Courageous Leadership and Courageous Equity & Inclusion programs, and then sought out people reaching across differences to [re]build trust and a sense of shared purpose. We then created the Courageous Leadership for a Courageous Democracy initiative in 2016 to provide evidence-based tools to reach across widening political divides and create a more caring, innovative, and sustainable democracy.
We were fortunate to find amazing partners like a large New York foundation, Junior State of America, and Rotary International, who helped refine, test, and hone the Courageous Democracy program. Our partners at Jonathan Haidt’s Civil Politics, who provided evaluation for these initial programs, report that Courageous Democracy programs delivered some of the highest positive impact they have ever seen, and the most impact in terms of bridging divides.
In 2018, we completed our first year-long Courageous Democracy program with approximately 400 high school students from the Junior State of America. The results surpassed our expectations with 88% of students reporting they were much more likely to engage in courageous conversations across difference. We saw increases in positive views about people in different political parties, and an increase in their motivation to work together on societal challenges. You can read more in These Kids are Learning to Have Bipartisan Conversations and The United States of Anxiety. Meanwhile, we have been partnering with Rotary International for more than two years, conducting multiple district and community trainings with approximately 500 Rotarians, with equally positive outcomes and feedback. Read a recent article about this work, Courageous Promoting Peace.
We have learned that “collective courage”—the ability of the people to act with open hearts and minds in the face of fear or discomfort from ideological, cultural or social differences—is essential for a sustainable democracy. Collective courage consists of learned skills, built through practice with social support, and honed through work on shared goals.
Having a strong proof of concept, a well-tested program design, and outstanding results, we’re engaging partners from the corporate, civic, and philanthropic sectors to expand and spread Courageous Democracy. We feel—and hope you share—a particular urgency to support and scale up efforts to create a more inclusive and responsive democracy, where all respectful and responsible points of view are included. This program is administered for social good, and funded by individual donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations. For more information on how you can get involved, contact us.
All Courageous Leadership programs are built on social science. Over eight years of working with colleagues and advisors, (including Phil Zimbardo, Lynne Henderson, Paul Gilbert, Kim Cameron), we created an interactive program to help leaders and teams in organizations. Our programs help people recognize invisible systemic influences and subtle social cues, manage internal reactions under stress, and override unhelpful human reactions (e.g., otherizing, avoiding, and lashing out). We train people to more-consistently act with compassion, ethical courage and ingenuity. Courageous Leadership’s programs and evidence-based tools have been used with clients like Google, MIT Sloan, the Omidyar Group, Microsoft, Pfizer, Kaiser Permanente, the Hewlett Foundation, Columbia Medical Center, the Australian Government, Post Carbon Institute, American Leadership Forum, and others.