The Democracy & Belonging Forum is OBI’s newest program, constituting the Institute’s first concerted effort to bring its scholarship, analyses, and frameworks to global changemakers. The Forum is a network for civic leaders in Europe and the US to engage with each other around some of the greatest threats to marginalized groups and belonging in both regions: heightened polarization and "breaking" across lines of difference, the opportunistic rise of populist authoritarianism, and the erosion of democratic norms and systems in both regions.
Our focus on strengthening democracy is not incidental—OBI has long viewed threats to democratic norms and institutions globally with concern as we recognize democracy as a core expression of belonging at the structural level. Our conception of belonging means that actors in any system have the right to not only be included in that system, but to make demands on it and even change the structure of the system itself. But democracies in Europe and the US today are buckling under the weight of toxic polarization, high mistrust towards institutions and other people, and out-group scapegoating—divisions that are now being exploited by far-right, anti-democratic leaders in both regions.
We find that a major barrier to countering democratic erosion and advancing belonging is not a lack of interest or will, but rather the siloization of existing efforts, coupled with a dearth of channels for circulating resources, knowledge, and learnings across the field.
The Democracy & Belonging Forum aims to tackle this siloization by developing novel pathways for the exchange of knowledge, resources, and ideas between leaders and influencers in Europe and the US who share a commitment to bridging across lines of difference while centering the needs and concerns of marginalized groups. Towards this end, we host private gatherings, curate public conferences and virtual events, and disseminate resources like micro-grants for innovation and experimentation between members. Learn more about the Democracy & Belonging Forum and get involved here.