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Demos Backgrounder

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Year Founded: 2000

Website: www.demos.org

Demos Identifier, for Print and Broadcast
Demos is a national, non-partisan 501c(3) public policy research and advocacy organization with headquarters in New York City, and offices in Boston, Austin and Washington D.C.

[Demos is also known as a "non-partisan think-tank" and a "non-partisan public policy research center". All would be appropriate uses.]

*Demos does not endorse any political party or candidate

Mission Statement
Demos works with advocates and policymakers around the country in pursuit of four overarching goals: a more equitable economy; a vibrant and inclusive democracy; an empowered public sector that works for the common good; and responsible U.S. engagement in an interdependent world.

Pronunciation, Definition, Etymology

de·mos (dee'mose')
1. The common people; the populace.
2. The common people of an ancient Greek state.
[Greek demos, district, people.]

Scope of Work

Domestic, on federal and state level, primarily, but also have a new international focus. Work includes: policy research and policy concepts; books by staff and fellows (over 20 so far); research reports (over 100); surveys; legislative and journalist briefings; conferences; public forums; and others.

Leadership and Available Interviewees (See Demos' Speakers Bureau for Additional List of Speakers)

Miles Rapoport, President Miles sets Demos' agenda and oversees the management of the organization. He served for ten years in the Connecticut legislature, and was elected Secretary of the State of Connecticut. He also founded Northeast Action, and served as Executive Director of DemocracyWorks.

Stephen Heintz, Board Chair Stephen is President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and former President of Demos. He has also served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the East-West Institute.

David Callahan, Demos Co-Founder & Senior Fellow David is involved in developing several new projects, including coordinating Demos' new International Program. He is the author of seven books, including The Moral Center (Harcourt, 2006). He has written Demos reports on election reform, poverty, and economic opportunity.

Stuart Comstock-Gay, Director of Democracy Program Stuart came to Demos through the affiliation with the National Voting Rights Institute, where he served as Executive Director from January 2004 to December 2006. He has spoken and written widely on topics related to democracy, foundation practices and civil liberties.

Tamara Draut, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program Tamara oversees Demos' research, policy and advocacy work on issues related to economic security and mobility. She is the author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead (Doubleday, 2006).

Dianne Stewart, Director of Public Works Dianne came to Demos in 2003 to help build Public Works. Dianne has 20 years of experience inside state government, in the private sector and in a state-level policy NGO working on issues of governance, particularly as they affect low-income families.

Demos began as a vision of Charles Halpern--then the president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and a veteran non-profit entrepreneur. He was troubled by the narrow conversation about America's future. On the eve of the 21st century, it seemed that America no longer had the imagination to tackle its largest problems and build a more just society.

Halpern set out to challenge the status quo with a new institution. He envisioned a dynamic hub for creative scholars and cutting-edge practitioners--an organization that combined ideas and action to chart a new set of priorities for America. By 1999, Halpern had assembled a talented working group to develop Demos. Among them were David Callahan, a fellow at the Century Foundation; Rob Fersh, a long-time policy advocate; Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the East-West Institute; Sara Horowitz, founder of Working Today; Arnie Miller, a leading executive recruiter; Barack Obama, then a state senator from Illinois; David Skaggs, a congressman from Colorado; and Linda Tarr-Whelan, an internationally recognized expert on women and economic development. This working group would eventually form the core of Demos' staff and Board of Trustees.

Demos opened its New York office in March 2000 with Stephen Heintz as President. Under his leadership, Demos' initial work zeroed in on two of the greatest challenges facing the nation: first, a growing "prosperity gap"--the vast inequities in economic opportunity among Americans; and second, a "democracy deficit"--the imbalance in civic participation that left many citizens on the sidelines while others enjoyed privileged status. In spring 2001, Miles Rapoport was selected as the new president of Demos. He was the right leader at the right time. A former legislator and Secretary of the State from Connecticut, Rapoport not only had thirty years experience in advocating for social change, but also a wealth of first-hand knowledge about electoral reform--expertise that quickly helped establish Demos as a leading voice of democracy reform in the wake of the 2000 election.


The Democracy Program works to strengthen democracy in the United States by reducing barriers to voter participation and encouraging civic engagement. Demos supports expanded democratic participation by conducting new research; supporting pro-voter litigation; providing information and resources to advocates and policymakers; and advancing a broad agenda for election reform.

The Economic Opportunity Program addresses the severe economic insecurity and inequality that characterize American society today. The program offers fresh analysis and bold policy ideas to provide new opportunities for young adults and financially-strapped families to achieve economic security.

Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector helps advocates, policymakers and community leaders across the United States re-envision the role of government. Demos believes in a public sector that acts effectively for the common good and plans for our future, with the public support and resources necessary to succeed in that critical work.

The International Program advances the ideals of strong democracy, shared prosperity, and effective governance at the global level. This work challenges current patterns of globalization with the goals of democratizing global governance; ensuring that all people benefit from free markets and trade; and enabling immigrants to have a greater voice in the societies in which they live. The program also develops new messages to help build public support for responsible U.S. global engagement.

The Fellows Program supports scholars and writers whose innovative work influences the public debate about crucial national and global issues. The program offers an intellectual home and platform for more than 20 fellows from diverse backgrounds: emerging public intellectuals, journalists, distinguished public figures and academics whose research can be used to inform the policy world.

The Demos Books Project supports the work of fellows, staff and affiliates who are engaging public debate by publishing new books addressing the critical issues of our times.

The Demos Forum: Ideas for Change event series features prominent authors, scholars and advocates addressing key national and global issues.

Partners and Affiliated Projects:

International Program Cluster:

Through its CivWorld project, Demos is engaged in an exploration of how to build a truly democratic global system. This work includes an annual Interdependence Day Forum in which leading thinkers and practitioners convene to exchange ideas, and research that examines how globalization is challenging traditional conceptions of national sovereignty and how interdependence must inform a "new global social contract."

To promote healthier global democracy and a more inclusive economy, Demos is partnered with the U.S. in the World Initiative (USITW) to unite international advocates around a shared story of responsible global engagement, create connections across issue areas, and use new communications research to reach broader audiences.

The World Policy Institute (WPI) is a close partner in all of Demos' international work. WPI's Fellows Program, regular public and private events, research and policy development, media activities, and flagship World Policy Journal provide a forum for solution-focused policy analysis and public debate.

Demos is collaborating in the Project on Shared Global Prosperity, which seeks to forge a new approach to trade and development, advancing a "win-win" policy framework that protects the economic security of American workers while encouraging the growth and prosperity--often driven by exports--of developing countries.

Other Demos Partners and Affiliated Projects:

The Building Movement Project helps non-profit organizations integrate social justice principles into their work; strengthen their role as centers of democratic practice; and plan for the next generation of leadership.

Business for Shared Prosperity is a network of business owners, executives and investors committed to sustainable public policies and business practices that broaden economic opportunity, expand wealth ownership, and reduce inequality.

Inequality.org is a resource center for journalists, legislators, advocates and citizens concerned about America's growing economic divide. Building on the work of Demos' 2004 conference and 2006 book, Inequality Matters, Inequality.org's tools outline the magnitude, causes and far-reaching consequences of this decades-long trend.


For Media Inquiries, Interview Requests and Reprint Permission:
Timothy Rusch, Communications Director
Tel: (212) 389-1408 Email: trusch@demos.org

For Demos.org, Graphic Art-related Inquiries or Requests:
Aaron Brown, Creative Manager
Tel: (212) 633-1405 Email: abrown@demos.org

For Online Content Management, Books, Publications and All Other Inquiries:
Gennady Kolker, Communications Assistant
Tel: (212) 389-1408 Email: gkolker@demos.org

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