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At the time of this writing, early June 2020, COVID-19 cases are rising or holding steady in a majority of states, disproportionately killing Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, and people with disabilities. The nation is roiled by civil unrest following the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers. In many ways, we have spiraled back to the trauma of the late '60s, with a pandemic added to the mix. Newsrooms across the nation are also having fierce internal debates about what constitutes good coverage and staffing. The degree to which they are prepared to have these conversations often relies on the level of transparency and openness to innovation, in a way that goes far beyond placing content on the tech platform du jour.
As part of its strategic redesign process in 2015, the Ford Foundation sought a systematic review of its Promoting Electoral Reform and Democratic Participation (PERDP) initiative in the United States. The overarching goal of the review was to understand the extent to which a clear theory of change existed in PERDP's work, and whether that theory of change matched broader understandings of what worked in strengthening civic engagement and democracy. Our goal was not to assess particular grants or funding choices. Instead we sought to synthesize learning about strategies for increasing civic participation and improving the functioning of American democracy by looking broadly at both scholarly research and the experiences of PERDP.