Giving Compass' Take:

• Philanthropy Northwest's Democracy Lens is a useful tool for donors to help them build and improve democratic practices in their communities. 

• How are you strengthening and evaluating democracy in your local area? 

• Read about communities that require unique support for democracy-building. 

Philanthropy Northwest’s Democracy Lens is a tool to help grantmakers recognize their capacities to create a more vibrant democracy in their states and communities. Using the project's case studies and data, democracy-focused funders can refine their strategy goals, and other funders can identify aspects of their work that involve the strengthening of democracy.

With a wider understanding of the issues, grantmakers can address dissatisfaction in public institutions by reinvigorating communities' self-determination and engagement in policy. The Democracy Lens highlights how philanthropy can enhance public discourse, civic participation and effective citizenship, as well as revealing places for improvement by exploring examples of democracy-building initiatives.

Bright Spots

The Democracy Lens’ Bright Spots examine successful democracy-improving initiatives in the Northwest. Alongside the broader context of democracy efforts across each state in our region, each case study illustrates a change made to address a governing problem, the impact of that change and philanthropy’s role in the implementation. These solutions to civic participation issues have inspired other communities to replicate their success and experiment with their own democracy retooling efforts.

Democracy Lens Data Indicators 

Data provide a window into the health of democracy in the Northwest. Statistics include the political representation of women and people of color, foundation funding toward direct and indirect outcomes that build democracy, the number of nonprofit local media sources, and voter turnout and registration rates. Combined with the Bright Spots, the data paint a clearer picture of where funders can address shortcomings in the democratic processes of the region.

Utilizing data from the Democracy Lens, funders can identify the strengths and areas for improvement in advancing democracy their own communities. From 2012 to 2014, about one percent of foundation grants to the Northwest focused on a democracy-related cause.

Read the full article about the Democracy Lens at Philanthropy Northwest.