- District of Columbia
The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.
Our research suggests that a true, robust democracy requires:
- responsible citizens who can make sound decisions about their future and can act on these decisions.
- a community, or a society of citizens, that can work together to address common problems.
- institutions with public legitimacy that contribute to strengthening society.
Kettering research has also identified some of the things citizens, communities, and institutions must do to make democracy work as it should: we call these democratic practices. Democratic practices are ways citizens can work together—even when they disagree—to address shared problems.
As a research institution, the Kettering Foundation works primarily through learning exchanges and other collaborative research with civic organizations, communities, and institutions that are experimenting with ways to strengthen democracy. Those involved in these exchanges trade their experiences for insights that Kettering has collected from past exchanges with a wide range of groups from around the world.
KF learns by exchanging ideas and experiences with people and organizations who are trying to do something in their own communities out of their own self-interest. We believe this is crucial to the integrity of the insight, as well as its sustainability and relevance to others.
Kettering learns by offering our insights and arresting questions in exchange for what our partners are observing and learning in public life.
We do this in a variety of ways, but most frequently by convening research exchanges at the foundation, where we bring together our staff and those we’re learning with to trade their experiences for insights that Kettering has collected from past exchanges with a wide range of people and groups from around the world. These meetings are truly learning exchanges and not simply for bringing people together to discuss their work, useful as that might be. Each exchange has a particular research focus.