Berggruen Institute

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Berggruen Institute
FounderNicolas Berggruen
Registration no.C3671781
  • Los Angeles, CA 90013
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016)$7,864,358[1]
Endowment (2016)$500 million[2]

The Berggruen Institute is an independent think tank aimed at reshaping political and social institutions in the face of the great transformations of the 21st century. The Berggruen Institute seeks to work across cultures, disciplines and political boundaries and engage great thinkers to develop and promote long-term answers to the biggest challenges facing humanity today.[3]


In 2010, Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels sat down with a group of academics, business leaders, and political veterans in California to discuss the economic and political stresses caused by the global financial crisis, the widespread perception of failing political institutions and Western democracies, and how China's rise would affect the international landscape in the 21st century. The ideas that emerged from those original discussions became the foundation for the Berggruen Institute through the launch of local and global initiatives and the publication of Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East, a Financial Times "Best Book of the Year.”

In January 2014, the institute created The WorldPost, a not-for-profit, online global publication which began publishing through the Washington Post platform in 2018. Concurrently, the institute also formed a new partnership with the University of California Press to publish a new book series on the great transformations. In 2019, the Berggruen and Gardels co-authored their second book together, Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism, as a continuance of the UC Press Great Transformations series.

In 2015, the institute expanded its mission with the creation of its Berggruen Fellowship Program, which sponsors thinkers working to develop new ideas for addressing the great transformations.[4]

Berggruen Institute councils and committees[edit]

The Berggruen Institute is committed to proposing and implementing new ideas of effective governance through three of its projects: the 21st Century Council, the Council for the Future of Europe, and the Think Long Committee for California.

Through these projects, the institute worked closely with German and French labor ministers to develop a youth jobs plan for Europe; organized repeat delegations of government and industry leaders in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leadership to foster an open dialogue and better understanding between China and the West; and passed the California SB 1253 Ballot Initiative Transparency Act, strengthening the integrity of the state's initiative process.[5]

21st Century Council[edit]

The 21st Century Council brings together former heads of state, global thinkers and entrepreneurs from across cultural and political boundaries to address the problems arising from power shifts from Western-dominated globalization to a multipolar world. The council is devoted to global governance reform with the aim to "build on a convergence of interests in order to create a community of interests."[6]

The council aims to connect ideas to action to improve governance and institutional performance at the state, local, and national levels while working to ensure that global policy conversations fully incorporate Chinese and Western perspectives.

Initially formed as a shadow G-20, the council presented its recommendations to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in 2011 prior to the G-20 Summit in Cannes, as well as to President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his successor Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012 prior to the G-20 Summit in Mexico.

In 2013, the council met with Henry Kissinger in New York, and, later, Paramount leader Xi Jinping of China and other Chinese leaders at the council's first "Understanding China" conference in Beijing. The second conference was held in 2015; the third took place in 2018.

The council is chaired by former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo.[7]

Council on the Future of Europe[edit]

The Council on the Future of Europe is a committee engaged in research, debate and advocacy to move forward the project of a united Europe.[8] It advocates not only a fiscal and political union within Europe but also the engagement of European citizens. It supports "town hall" meetings[9] and seminars to provide a forum for Council members and European leaders to bring their ideas to the public.

The council hosted an annual Town Hall (2012–2015) series to foster an ongoing dialogue on how to best address Europe's most pressing issues, including economic expansion, jobs and opportunities for youth, labor mobility and migration, and expanding democratic foundation of the union.

In May 2013, the council held a "town hall" meeting endorsed by the French President Francois Hollande, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Italian labor minister. The council and Germany's labor minister, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed an investment, training, and jobs program for Europe. The program eventually became a part of European policy in January 2015 when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed the 315 billion euro Investment Plan.[10]

The Think Long Committee for California[edit]

The Think Long Committee for California promotes a comprehensive approach for improving California's government. It has involved a politically bi-partisan board from the outset. In November 2011, the Committee published its report, A Blueprint to Renew California.[11] The report recommended the devolution of power to local governments and school districts, reform of the democracy initiative process to ensure greater consideration of measures proposed by the public, establishment of a "rainy day" fund for economic downturns, a body of long-term oversight to balance the short-term, special-interest character of the elected legislature, and modernization of California's tax system.[12]

In 2014, the committee helped promote SB 1253, "The Ballot Initiative Transparency Act," eventually approved on September 28, 2014.[13] It increase the opportunities for public comment, and allows lawmakers and proponents to make changes before ballot initiatives go to the voters. The committee also supported Proposition 2 in 2014, "The Rainy Day Fund," which sets aside a small percentage of revenue each year to pay the state's debt and safeguard against economic downturns.[14]

The institute's other projects in California include the LA Committee and Sense LA.

The LA Committee[edit]

The LA Committee, introduced in 2016, is made up of Los Angeles and California residents from across sectors whose aim is to assist the institute in building a community of support and creating impactful programs in Los Angeles. The committee is chaired by Geoffrey Cowan, the founding president of Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.[15]

Sense LA[edit]

The Sense LA program was unveiled in 2019 to be a tool for social cohesion and public participation in Los Angeles using the power of art and the city's collective intelligence. In September 2019 it launched its first project with the Korean American Federation to develop formal and actionable recommendations for the city's master urban plan, a field test in participatory representative democracy. Sense LA is led by Berggruen fellow Gabriel Kahan.[16]

Berggruen Institute programs and work[edit]

The institute's core work is done through its four programs:[5] Future Humans, The Future of Capitalism, The Future of Democracy, and Geopolitics and Globalization. Additionally, the Global Fellowship Program enables thinkers to study globally in different areas of the world. In 2016, the Berggruen Prize, an annual one million dollar award, was unveiled.

Future Humans[edit]

Life, intelligence, body, matter, mind: such concepts are undergoing great transformations. From biotechnologies that rearrange DNA to create new life forms, to computers that learn to respond to human emotions and anticipate the most intimate desires, to space telescopes that reveal a universe percolating with strange particles and perhaps soon other sentient beings, we interact with and design technologies that unsettle our notions of nature, including human nature. These transformations thus prompt us to consider the diversity of possible futures for humans in connection with other beings, biologies, and the biosphere.

“Future Humans" is a new Berggruen Institute research area that will collaboratively and creatively ask: How can we construct a flourishing ecosystem with AI, humans, and the planet? What sorts of novel fragilities will we encounter in a world of rapidly transforming but ineluctable interconnection? And how must we radically rethink human-driven institutions (politics, society, the economy, and so on) in the face of these dramatic changes?

Launching in Fall 2022, this interdisciplinary program will unite experimentalists, creators, and scholars who will not only track, but also shape, how humans of the future will collaborate with forecasted natures and technologies.[17]

The Future of Capitalism Program[edit]

The Future of Capitalism program[18] seeks to envision new models and mechanisms for managing and legitimating market economies while addressing the current environmental and distributional challenges. It has two main programs: the Universal Basic Assets program which explores ways to equip individuals with universal access to an asset base that is mutually administered and distributes benefits to its stakeholders and the New Political Economy program which explores innovative proposals for how leaders at all different levels of governance can best respond to and reshape globalized capitalism.

The Future of Capitalism program is led by its first associate director, Dr. Yakov Feygin, who works closely with Nils Gilman, the vice president of programs at the institute.

The Future of Democracy Program[edit]

The Future of Democracy program[19] brings together thoughtful leaders and leading thinkers to re-imagine democracy for the new era to develop new ideas for how to reinvent democratic institutions and rebuild the public square for the 21st century.

Led my Nathan Gardels and Berggruen Institute Vice President Dawn Nakagawa, the Future of Democracy program focuses on the Berggruen Governance Index, an annual evaluation of countries on the basis of their quality of political governance, and The Future of Democracy Project, an investigation into how social media and other new communications technology are impacting democracies in the Digital Age.

The Think Long California Committee, Sense LA, and the Council for the Future of Europe are all housed under the FoD program.

Geopolitics and Globalization Program[edit]

The Geopolitics and Globalization Program,[20] home to the 21st Century Council, focuses on two projects: Thriving in a Transactional International Order, which is aimed at building a forward-looking model of the international system that focuses on liberal outcomes without relying on the revival of anachronistic institutions, and Promoting US-China Dialogue on AI & Security, which is responsible for the three “Understanding China” conferences in Beijing since its inception.

Global Fellowship Program[edit]

The Fellowship Program is a two-year program that gives scholars the opportunity to study at academic institutions all over the world.[21] The institute has launched resident fellowship programs at several universities, including Stanford University, Harvard University, NYU, Cambridge and Tsinghua University in Beijing. So far, more than 60 scholars have been awarded Fellowships. Starting in 2018, the institute has also begun a new fellowship track that embeds researchers directly in laboratories and organizations. The Program also supports research at the University of Southern California (USC) Brain and Creativity Institute under Dr. Antonio Damasio.

Berggruen Prize[edit]

The Berggruen Institute presented its first Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture in 2016. The million-dollar award, chosen by an independent jury, is given annually to a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity.[22]

The inaugural recipient in 2016 was Charles Taylor, one of the world's foremost philosophers who has deepened the understanding among different intellectual traditions and civilizations.[23]

The 2017 laureate was Onora O’Neill. A broad-ranging philosopher of politics and ethics, international justice and bioethics, O’Neill is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Great Britain.[24]

In 2018, the Prize was awarded to author and public philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum to recognize her ability to use the power of literature and the classical world to help global audiences understand vulnerability—particularly the emotions in moral and political life—and the conditions for human wellbeing and happiness.[25]

The 2019 Berggruen Prize was awarded to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her work in pioneering gender equality and using the law to advance ethical and philosophical principles of equality and human rights.[26]

Berggruen China Center[edit]

In June 2018, the Berggruen Institute[27] announced plans to house a China Center at Peking University, an interdisciplinary research center founded with the aim to foster more cross-cultural dialogue.[28] It houses fellows, and offers symposia and conferences.[29]

Overseen by director Bing Song, the Berggruen China Center and its fellows are focused on the Frontier Technologies and Society program, the Digital Governance program, and its own Globalization and Geopolitics program.

The China Center is among the first research institutions globally to focus on bringing together artificial intelligence scientists and Chinese philosophers to foster mutual understanding and innovative thinking, and on non-Western intellectual sources of governance for both domestic and global affairs in a digital age.

In 2019, two of their projects: AI meets Chinese philosophers and Tianxia and geopolitics reached book publication stage.

Noema Magazine[edit]

In 2014, Berggruen Institute created a global media platform, The WorldPost, and partnered with HuffPost to publish The WorldPost on its HuffPost platform. Later in 2017, Berggruen Institute announced a partnership with The Washington Post to publish The WorldPost content only on Washington Post as a media platform that included op-eds, videos, and features by writers around the world.[30][31]

Then in 2020, The WorldPost turned into a digital and print magazine and was named Noema Magazine. Noema publishes essays, interviews, reportage, videos, and art on several topics including culture, technology, philosophy, governance, geopolitics, and economics. As of 2021, Nathan Gardels is editor in chief of Noema, and Kathleen Miles is the executive editor.[30][32][33]

Berggruen Institute Scholar's Campus: Monteverdi[edit]

The Berggruen Institute is planning a new Scholars’ Campus in the Santa Monica Mountains, above the Getty Center. The campus, designed by a team of architects led by Herzog and de Meuron and L.A's Gensler, will house the institute's educational programs, fellowships and scholars.[34][35][36]

The institute is committed to creating an environmentally sound project, to creating a best-in-class fire safety program to benefit the entire area, and to build new public hiking trails on the property to make the mountains more accessible to the public.


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  21. ^ "Berggruen". Archived from the original on 2016-05-25. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
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  33. ^ Healy, Amber (7 October 2021). "482. Noema aims to help academics, policy makers think differently". Retrieved 2022-02-01.
  34. ^ "Herzog & de Meuron reveal plans for Berggruen Institute site north of the Getty Center". Los Angeles Times. 2017-08-23. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  35. ^ "Plans for Berggruen Institute's 'scholars' campus' in the Santa Monica Mountains move forward". 15 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
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