The last year has spotlighted the frailty of many US institutions, as well as Americans’ lack of trust in them. The COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, voter suppression, and other issues that have come to the fore have stress-tested the country’s civic and democratic systems, and they’ve unfortunately revealed how much our public health systems have suffered from neglect, and how much other institutions, including civil justice organizations, have suffered from lack of investment. Alongside these revelations, people’s belief in the integrity and efficacy of existing social and economic systems has sunk to a new low, eroded further by government officials refusing to acknowledge when institutions have actually done their job effectively, as with the verification of 2020 presidential election results. A lack of civic trust, exploited by former President Donald Trump, contributed to the violent insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month, and it will continue to threaten the nation’s ability to attract new voters and increase participation.

Effectively rebuilding and restoring people’s trust in US civic and democratic institutions requires that both the new Biden-Harris administration and Americans themselves do things differently. Rather than just “building back better,” we need to build with new intention; we need to look to the future while also acknowledging the past. This means creating a culture of democracy where everyday people regularly participate in the processes and systems of governance that wield influence over policy and affect their lives—particularly those focused on addressing racism and oppression, and on creating equitable outcomes for Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. It also means institutions must listen to communities, and use community insights and expertise to build policies and programs people believe in and can trust. In other words, we must invest in co-governance capacity so that individuals, grassroots organizations, and policy makers are working hand in hand. Here’s a look at three ways we can do this in practice.

Read the full article about democratic institutions by Sonal Shah and Hollie Russon Gilman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.