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Common Dreams

Now's Our Chance—We Can Reverse Democracy's Decline


"Fed up, everyday citizens are stepping up to reverse a whole slew of assaults on our democracy—from voting rights to gerrymandering to removing money's grip. . .Whether a couple or a country, facing a crisis requires confronting reality, even if it hurts. So, first, let's make a quick, an eyes-wide-open assessment of our democracy, then explore opportunity—right now—to make history. . ."

By Frances Moore Lappé

January 13, 2021

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To save the democracy we thought we had, we must take democracy to where it’s never been—toward a “living democracy” where we each have a voice in fostering solutions to the challenges of our time, from life-stunting inequality to climate change.

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The Small Planet Institute’s vision is grounded in eyes-wide-open hope, the opposite of wishful thinking. We strive to further three social conditions: wide dispersion of power, transparency in public affairs, and a culture of mutual accountability--what we call Living Democracy--an evolving way of life, not only a form of government. These conditions have been proven over humanity’s long evolution to bring forth the best in our species and to keep the worst in check.


Living Democracy is not a finished state. It is a journey with clear direction, one based in evidence from diverse fields of inquiry as well our own experience and observations of history. Together, they confirm that humans come “soft-wired” for cooperation, empathy, and fairness needed to make possible a democratic way of life; while our species also suffers a profound anti-democratic weakness, our tendency to push blame on those we perceive as different.

Thus, at the Small Planet Institute we ask - what are the social conditions enabling the positive aspects of our nature to flourish while keeping the negative in check? We define three: the wide dispersion of power, transparency in public affairs, and a culture of mutual accountability rather than blaming. In large measure they bring forth our better selves because they enable us to meet three essential human needs: for personal power (to know “we count”), meaning, and connection with others.


When these needs are met across political, economic and social dimensions of life, we experience dignity, the very lifeblood of Living Democracy


Living Democracy is thus the journey of fulfilling the social conditions essential to meeting our deepest needs.

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Frances shares her often-surprising takes on themes of hope, democracy, and courage in her Thought Sparks Video Series. She opens her heart about what fortifies her in this scary time. And don't miss reading her companion blogs too!

Blue Skies


"It's not the magnitude of a challenge that crushes the human spirit. It's feeling useless that does us in."


— from "Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want" by Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen

“This book, perhaps better than any other, shows Americans that the democracy they want is possible.”

—Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School professor and author of Republic, Lost, on Frances Moore Lappé & Adam Eichen's Daring Democracy



Small Planet Institute Democracy Fellow


Small Planet Institute Co-Founder

Seasoned writer and activist Frances met recent college graduate Adam at a democracy conference in Mexico City in 2015. This culminated in the cross-generational pair teaming up to write Daring Democracy.


Frances enjoys speaking to students, faith groups, and more about the power of community, democracy, organizing, and hope. Invite Frances to speak at your organization!


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