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At the Small Planet Institute we spread an empowering understanding of democracy as the wide dispersion of power, transparency in public affairs, and a culture of mutual accountability. We call it Living Democracy, enabling each of us to act effectively on emerging solutions from electoral politics and economic life to the environment, hunger, agriculture, and beyond.

Our goal is thus a future where all communities are thriving with dignity as Living Democracies, fulfilling our essential needs for personal power, meaning, and connection. 


Small Planet Institute spreads our core philosophy of Living Democracy and the positive solution stories that we’re uncovering in our research via writing, social media, and public speaking. 


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.


We—Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé—founded the Small Planet Institute in 2001, after traveling on five continents to write Hope’s Edge. Inspired by the courageous people we met pushing forward the edge of hope, we were determined to create an ongoing tool to explore and share our understanding of the root causes and—most important—the root solutions to environmental devastation and injustices throughout the global food system as well as the democracy deficit that this needless suffering reflects.


Among Small Planet Institute’s biggest accomplishments are our book publications. Since 2001, we have released 10 books including our newest book, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. Additionally, we have contributed chapters to many other books.


Both Frances and Anna have given hundreds of speeches, including Anna’s TEDxTalk on marketing food to children, Frances’sTEDxTalk on creating a world we want, and Anna’s keynote speech at ShiftCon. Frances and Anna have also appeared on various television networks including Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.


Small Planet has also created online media designed to interact with our audience including the Real Food Media online film contest and the EcoMind workshop.

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