Civic Engagement and Government

Around the world, billions of people are excluded from full participation in the political, economic, and cultural systems that shape their lives. When so many lack access to and engagement with their government, policies fail to address their needs, favoring instead those who already have power and resources. This is a fundamental driver of inequality.

This situation is neither natural nor inevitable: Governments have the potential to remedy inequality or to reinforce it. And history makes clear that people—when they have the ability to organize, speak up, and engage—have the potential to hold their leaders and institutions accountable, pushing them to be responsive and fulfill their promise to serve the common good.

In the US and internationally, we believe that meaningful civic engagement is an antidote to inequality, with rich potential to empower underrepresented and marginalized people and communities to raise their voices, claim space, influence decisions that affect them, and hold governments to account. In the current global order, civic space and civil society are both under threat. Our work is to help them thrive.

Our work


We support efforts to protect and expand civic space, and to strengthen civil society’s ability to inform, engage, and mobilize diverse communities.

Learn about our work internationally

United States

We invest in efforts to make governments more representative, and to ensure that the rules for political participation are fair and inclusive. And we work to help emerging leaders address injustice and inequality in their own communities.

Learn about our work in the US

More from Civic Engagement and Government

Program Officer, Mexico and Central America
Mexico City, Mexico
Director, Middle East and North Africa
Cairo, Egypt
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Program Associate, Civic Engagement and Government, International Program
Mexico City, Mexico
International Program Director, Civic Engagement and Government; Director, Mexico and Central America
Mexico City, Mexico
Grants Manager, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Director, Eastern Africa
Nairobi, Kenya
Senior Grants Manager, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Director, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Director, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA

Anticipated Outcomes

Global coordination

Greater alignment, complementarity, and strategic collaboration develops among international, regional, and national organizations and actors working to expand civic space.

More accurate narratives

International, regional, and national organizations and actors begin to shift predominant narratives about the value and relevance of civic space and civil society.

Increased accountability

An expanded set of actors develop new avenues and mechanisms within global and regional structures to hold governments to account for restricting civic space.

Strengthened deterrence

Attacks against social justice leaders are reduced in key countries and regions as a result of improving the resilience of key organizations and increasing the political costs of such attacks at different levels.

Expanded alliance building

Diverse civil society actors engage broad sectors of society and build unusual and innovative coalitions and partnerships.

Enhanced communications

Voice and agency of affected communities increase, and narratives that speak to multiple audiences are effectively used.

Broad, compounding impact

Civil society legitimacy and/or one or more of the meta-trends contributing to the closing of civic space in the strategy country improve.

Civic participation

We support strategic litigation and legal advocacy to eliminate voter suppression and safeguard the right to vote. We also support efforts to make sure the 2020 census is fair and accurate. We support groups and networks as they build grassroots constituencies and develop strategies to make government more responsive, enable people to determine public agendas and priorities, and reclaim and rebuild trust in government. This includes building strategic leadership and coalitions at the state and national levels that can help people—particularly those who historically have not had a seat at the table—engage with and influence government in order to make it more accountable.

Anticipated Outcomes

Protect voting rights

The right to vote is protected at the federal and state level.

Strengthen the census

There is progress toward a fairer, more accurate census—one that is adequately funded and guided by sound policies, especially as it moves online.

Organizational capacity and effectiveness

Organizations at the state and national level develop their ability to analyze, think and work together strategically; influence and set agendas collectively; and make sure that all people—especially those who have historically been excluded—have a role in decision making.

Research and narrative

A body of empirical research on voter motivation and civic engagement (including primaries) informs philanthropic practice and the field of civic engagement—and begins to create a strong narrative about people’s ability to influence government and set agendas.

Next-generation leadership

We focus on helping young people and emerging leaders have influence on pressing issues of injustice and inequality in their own communities—and do so in ways that build their skills and capacity for a lifetime of leadership. We support strong, social justice organizations and intergenerational movements, with an emphasis on developing leadership among those who have been disadvantaged or excluded. Ultimately, we aim to foster civic engagement that translates into political influence and shapes social justice agendas—and contributes to a more equitable, representative, and just society.

Anticipated Outcomes

Resources and tools

Young people have the tools, resources, and networks they need to advocate for reforms that improve the lives of all young people—especially youth of color, immigrant youth, young women and girls, disabled youth, and LGBT youth.

Transformative solutions

By centering their work on the experiences of young leaders who are most impacted by inequality, social justice organizations and networks are able to advance and reflect more responsive, transformative solutions for all youth.

Leadership development

More young people have opportunities to develop their leadership, and to see that their experiences and participation have value—producing a new generation of young leaders committed to advancing justice.

What we don’t fund

We know nonprofit staff’s time is valuable, so we discourage using it to submit proposals that don’t fall within funding guidelines. In this spirit, we aim to be transparent about what our grant making does not support.

Because our goal is systemic change in the rules and structures of democratic participation, we do not fund voter registration or get-out-the-vote efforts. We do not fund projects to improve government transparency for its own sake. And because our goal is to support strong and sustainable civic infrastructure, we do not fund individual issue-based policy campaigns. We also do not fund direct services, fellowships, or pilot programs disconnected from our core strategic focus. We do not fund general youth leadership development that is disconnected from issues of civic engagement and democracy.