The Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative focuses on strengthening U.S. democracy and its institutions—especially Congress—in a time of political polarization.

Launched in 2014, the initiative is nonpartisan and supports nonprofit organizations across the ideological spectrum—academic researchers, advocacy groups, think tanks, and civic leadership organizations—who seek to understand and improve the political system so that elected representatives are better equipped to solve society’s greatest problems and in turn, earn public trust and support. The Hewlett Foundation’s board has authorized the initiative to make approximately $20 million in grants per year until 2021, for a total commitment of $150 million.

This strategy paper explains the initiative’s goals:

  • Uphold key values of U.S. democracy including pluralism, political tolerance, negotiation and compromise, and the central role of Congress in our democracy.
  • Strengthen Congress as an institution so that it has the capacity to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities as the first branch of government. These include passing laws and budgets, conducting effective bipartisan oversight, and operating with a culture of deliberation, leadership, and civility.
  • Improve campaign finance and election processes to reduce polarization, give voters more choices, and better represent the diversity of opinions among constituents.
  • Combat digital disinformation’s negative impact on democracy and elections, including how it spreads inflammatory and inaccurate information and contributes to polarization.
  • Support research, data, media, and collaboration to inform and improve the work of democracy philanthropists, scholars, advocates, journalists, political reformers, and policymakers.