At PACE, we believe in the power, potential, and responsibility of people to come together to discuss and address the problems they see around them. As a diverse philanthropic network with members of many sizes, strategies, and geographies, we share a core belief: America will be healthier and more successful, resilient, and productive, if democracy is strong and the office of citizen is treated as central to how it functions. We believe that democracy will be stronger when all people are informed and engaged in the process of creating it.

PACE works to create a wide and pragmatic aperture for funders to see the value of investing in democracy, and to envision their role in it. These three beliefs led us to embrace this as an organizing statement.

#1 Democracy Is a Verb

It can be easy to think about democracy as the systems, structures, and institutions of representative government that happen over there—whether that be in DC, a state capitol, or city hall. But democracy is also the practice and culture of self-governance, which you can see in the choices people make to contribute to their communities. This is why we emphasize the office of citizen as paramount. Democracy isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something we are together.

#2 Democracy Is a Process

People need democracy to deliver fair policies, effective services, and many other things. But too often, people conflate democracy with politics, and it’s not about winning. Democracy is about ensuring decision making processes are representative and fair, even if they don’t deliver what one side may want. This is why we use words like successfulhealthy, and resilient to describe the ideal outcomes of democracy. These conditions matter for everyone in society and are widely shared values.

#3 The Office of Citizen Belongs to All of Us

We recognize that we need to increase peoples’ ability to embrace the office of citizen thoughtfully and effectively. No one is born knowing how to be a citizen and many collective ideas of what good citizenship is continually evolve. This is why we articulate the need to be both informed and engaged in democracy. There isn’t one right way to be a citizen, except to say it’s an active, deliberate, intentional role; not a passive or static one.

Ideas for Lean Funder Support

Lean, place-based funders tend to have proximity and trust from the communities they seek to serve. And efforts that cultivate belonging, support community listening, and help people develop civic skills are a great place to start. There are tons of ways funders can invest in democracy and civic engagement. Here are a couple examples that may interest Exponent members.

Read the full article about investing in democracy by Kristen Cambell at Exponent Philanthropy.