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Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action
Formation 2000
Headquarters New York, NY

Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is a United States-based research and policy center that was founded in 2000. Based on its widely cited work in the media and growing impact on national and state policy, Demos continues to influence North American debate about election reform and economic security, with a particular emphasis on the development of a broad, stable future middle class in the United States.[citation needed]

According to their website, Demos maintains a non-partisan role in their policy change and reform work to revitalize American democracy. According to their publications, these efforts include opening up the electoral process to encourage high voter turnout, addressing financial instability in American households, engaging a public dialogue on ethics and values related to democracy and the economy, and developing a shared national vision of effective government.



Demos is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, focused on fostering a vibrant and inclusive democracy, an equitable economy, a public sector empowered to act for the common good, and responsible U.S. engagement in the world. It is distinguished by its focus on research and advocacy at both the federal and state levels. Demos is named after the Greek word meaning “the people” and is the root for the word “Democracy”, the think tank’s focal point.


Demos was conceptualized in the late 1990s by Charles Halpern, then president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Halpern wanted to create a counter-argument to the many right-wing think tanks and their growing influence and establish a multi-issue organization that would focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. Demos’ founding staff was assembled by 1999. This first group of fellows and board members included David Callahan, fellow at the Century Foundation; Rob Fersh, policy advocate; Stephen Heintz, vice president of the East-West Institute; Arnie Miller, of Isaccson Miller, an executive search firm; David Skaggs, a Congressman from Colorado; and Barack Obama, then a state senator in Illinois.

In March 2000 Demos opened its first office in New York with Stephen Heintz as President. In this first year, Demos’ work focused on two issue areas: 1) economic inequities in America and the growing prosperity gap, and 2) increasing civic participation and developing a more inclusive democracy. These two areas continue to be a large part of Demos’ core work. Demos’ democracy work became especially relevant after the 2000 Presidential Election’s voter complications increased concern about the efficacy America’s election systems.

In 2001, Stephen Heintz stepped down has president and was replaced by Miles Rapoport, a former legislator and Secretary of the State from Connecticut with a background in social change advocacy and community building.


According to their website,[1] Demos currently works in five main program areas: Democracy; Economic Opportunity: Public Works; International (in partnership with CivWorld and U.S. in the World); and the Fellows Program. It also does work with three affiliated partners: the Building Movement Project; Business for Shared Prosperity; and


Democracy Program

The Democracy Program is Demos’ oldest program. It works to strengthen democracy in America through research focused on encouraging civic participation and reducing barriers for voter participation. The program builds on Demos’ core belief that inclusive and active citizen participation is necessary for a strong democracy. Much of their work is focused on securing full implementation of section 7 of the National Voting Rights Act, which mandates that public assistance agencies provide voter registration services, as well as support for state-based campaigns to establish Election Day Registration policies.

Economic Opportunity Program

The Economic Opportunity Program focuses on research and policy ideas to provide new opportunities for low-income families, people of color, and young adults to achieve economic security. The program’s work includes reports on regulation, household debt, and policies aimed to help community college students complete their degrees.

Public Works Program

The Public Works Program is designed to create awareness and understanding of government as a collaborative effort that can work for the common good. It helps advocates, policymakers, and community leaders re-envision the purpose and function of U.S. public systems and structures and how they work within their communities. This program commissions research and provides training, consultation, and workshops.

International Program

The International Program works with Demos affiliates CivWorld and U.S. in the World and aims to expand Demos’ mission and ideals to an international setting. The program works towards ensuring that all people worldwide benefit from free markets and trade and have a strong voice within their societies. The International Program also does work on immigrant issues in and outside the U.S.

Fellows Program

The last major program area is the Fellows Program, which gives support to scholars and writers whose work aligns with Demos’ mission and values. Demos currently has 24 fellows, listed below:

  • David Callahan - International Program Director and Senior Fellow
  • Lew Daly - Director and Senior Fellow
  • Benjamin R. Barber - Director, CivWorld and Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Michael Edwards - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Robert Frank - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Teresa Ghilarducci - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Robert Kuttner - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • John Schwarz - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Linda Tarr-Whelan - Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Sasha Abramsky - Senior Fellow
  • Rich Benjamin - Senior Fellow
  • Shari Cohen - Senior Fellow
  • Jonathan Cohn - Senior Fellow
  • Allison H. Fine - Senior Fellow
  • James Lardner - Senior Fellow
  • Keesha Middlemass - Senior Fellow
  • Lorraine C. Minnite - Senior Fellow
  • Nomi Prins - Senior Fellow
  • Chris Rabb – Fellow
  • Beth Shulman - Senior Fellow
  • Deborah Stone - Senior Fellow
  • Jennifer Wheary - Senior Fellow
  • Jared Duval – Fellow
  • Nicole Kazee - Fellow

Major Successes

Credit Card Regulation

Demos' Economic Opportunity program has worked for many years on the issue of credit card debt among low-income households and is considered a pioneer in this field of research. Partly on a result of these efforts, on May 22, 2009 the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD) was signed into federal law.

Voter Registration of Low-Income Citizens

The Democracy Program’s work to improve state compliance with the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act has led to over 400,000 low-income voters applying to register to vote at social services agencies over the past five years. Recently, Demos was part of a successful settlement in an Ohio lawsuit filed in 2005 that alleged that then Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Governor Bob Taft and their predecessors had failed to protect the fundamental rights of eligible Ohio voters to cast a meaningful ballot, as required by the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This settlement is binding and requires the state to provide for uniformity and consistency in Ohio election procedures so that the opportunity to vote can be enjoyed equally by all Ohio citizens.


Board of Trustees

  • Stephen Heintz, Board Chair
  • Ben Binswanger
  • Christine Chen
  • Amy Hanauer
  • Sang Ji
  • Clarissa Martinez de Castro
  • Arnie Miller
  • Wendy Puriefoy
  • Amelia Warren Tyagi
  • Ruth Wooden
  • Robert Franklin (on leave through 2009)
  • David Skaggs (on leave 2009)
  • Ernst Tollerson (on leave 2009)

Senior Staff

  • Miles Rapoport, President
  • Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Programs
  • Timothy Rusch, Director of Communications
  • Rachel Whiting, Director of Development
  • Heather McGhee, Director of the Washington, DC, Office
  • Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program
  • Nancy Cauthen, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program
  • Lew Daly, Director of the Fellows Program
  • David Callahan, Director of the International Program
  • Dianne Stewart, Director of Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector

See also


External links


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