Demos (U.S. think tank)
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|Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action|
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
Demos is a United States-based research and policy center founded in 2000 that presents a liberal viewpoint on economic issues. Based on its widely cited work in the media and growing impact on national and state policy, Demos continues to influence the national debate on election reform and economic security, with a particular emphasis on the development of a broad, stable future middle class in the United States. More recently, it has branched into issues of sustainability and alternative measures of economic progress.
According to their website, Demos maintains a non-partisan role in their policy change and reform work to revitalize American democracy. 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, developing a shared national vision of effective government, and promoting the sustainable consumption of our natural resources.
- 1 Mission
- 2 History
- 3 Programs
- 4 Major Successes
- 5 Leadership
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze progressive change. The name "Demos" is derived from the Greek word meaning “the people” and is the root for the word “Democracy." 
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In the late 1990s, Demos was conceptualized by Charles Halpern, President of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (1989–2000). Halpern wanted to create a counter-argument to the growing influence of the many right-wing think tanks and establish a multi-issue organization that would focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. David Callahan, a Fellow at the Century Foundation, and Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the EastWest Institute, joined Halpern in helping to found Demos. Founding Board members included Arnie Miller, of Isaccson Miller, an executive search firm; David Skaggs, a Colorado Congressman; and Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator.
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 issues: (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’ 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 and was replaced by Miles Rapoport, Connecticut legislator (1985–94) and Secretary of State (1995–98) with a background in social-change advocacy and community-building.
According to their website, Demos currently has four programs: Democracy, Economic Opportunity, Public Works, and Fellows. Demos also recently launched an additional research program through its Sustainable Progress Initiative.
The Democracy Program is Demos’ oldest. 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 (NVRA), 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 household debt and credit checks, the economic security of young Americans and the elderly, and policies aimed to help community college students complete their degrees.
Sustainable Progress Initiative
Demos’ Sustainable Progress Initiative facilitates creative new research, policy development, and strategic planning to promote a new economy where the priority is to sustain human and natural communities. Recent reports include "Beyond GDP: New Measures for a New Economy," which questions the pervasive narrative linking GDP and market growth to social progress.
The Demos Fellows Program develop and sustains more than 25 fellows from diverse backgrounds, who produce books, research and commentary to shape a more vibrant and informed public conversation about policy. The Emerging Voices Initiative nurtures the careers of exciting young thought leaders, particularly those of color, to help address the profound lack of diversity among public commentators and to bring urgently needed new ideas into the debate.
PolicyShop is the official Demos blog, which "strives to offer timely commentary and analysis on a range of national and state policy issues." Frequent topics of commentary include jobs, middle class economic security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Voter ID laws, campaign finance reform, and energy and sustainability.
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Credit Card Regulation
For many years, the Economic Opportunity Program has worked on the issue of credit card debt among low-income households and is considered a pioneer in this field of research. The Federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD) was signed into law May 22, 2009, partly as a result of their efforts.
Voter Registration of Low-Income Citizens
The Democracy Program has worked to improve States' compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), focusing mainly on expanding voter registration opportunities at social service agencies for low income voters. Recently, Demos was part of a settlement in a lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleging Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Governor Bob Taft, and their predecessors 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
- Amelia Warren Tyagi, Board Chair
- Mark Alexander
- Ben Binswanger
- Rev. Janet McCune Edwards
- Gina Glantz
- Amy Hanauer
- Stephen B. Heintz
- Sang Ji
- Clarissa Martinez de Castro
- Van Jones
- Arnie Miller
- Wendy Puriefoy
- John Morning
- Miles Rapoport
- Ruth Wooden
- Janet Shenk
- Adele Simmons, Ph.D.
- David Skaggs
- Paul Starr
- Benjamin Taylor
- Miles Rapoport, President
- Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Programs
- David Callahan, Senior Fellow and Editor of the Demos blog PolicyShop.net
- Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program
- Dianne Stewart, Director of Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector
- Lucy Mayo, Interim Director of the Economic Opportunity Program
- Rachel Whiting, Director of Development
- Heather McGhee, Director of the Washington, D.C. office
- Lew Daly, Senior Fellow and Director of the Sustainable Progress Initiative
- Rich Benjamin, Fellows Coordinator and Senior Fellow
- Wasson, Erik (2011-03-07). "Liberal group pushes for $382 billion stimulus". The Hill (newspaper). Retrieved 2012-05-04. "A liberal think tank is calling on Congress to embrace a $382 billion stimulus plan to lower unemployment. The call from the liberal Demos group comes as the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans argue over how greatly to cut this year's spending."
- "Time to make the 401k mandatory?". MSN Money. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2012-05-04. "For a useful description of the various ideas, see a study by Robert Hiltonsmith for Demos, a liberal think tank that espouses total overhaul."
- Drawbough, Kevin (2011-03-23). "World swap market revamp pauses for a breather". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-05-04. "If Geithner backed a wide exemption, it would be a sign that the Obama administration is 'not really messing with the current business model that caused all the trouble,' said Robert Kuttner, an economist at liberal think tank Demos."
- "Demos About Page". Retrieved 17 March 2011.
- Herbert, Bob. "Demos, A Voice of Reason". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- Rosenfeld, David (8 November 2011). "Righting the Voting Income Gap". Miller-McCune. Retrieved 14 November 2011.