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The collective trust that is essential to a vital democracy is built locally. Experiences with city government and the authenticity of community engagement are just part of what shapes individual attitudes about whether democracy works. For example, when cities actively engage residents to develop effective solutions to problems in transparent ways, the confidence generated helps create an ongoing dialogue that fosters innovation and a strong sense of community.

In the face of growing concerns over the strength of democracy worldwide, GMF has been working to identify how cities can fortify and further their underlying institutions and principles. Cities have a unique freedom to experiment with innovative approaches that can be replicated and scaled up to the state or national level. This has earned them a well-deserved reputation as “laboratories of democracy.” In this project, we will identify and explore some of the best of these local innovations to empower stakeholders around the world to strengthen democracy through agency and action at the city level.

Participating Cities

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Research Pillars

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Federal Foreign Office


The Cities Fortifying Democracy project is funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany with additional support from the Knight Foundation. 

Program Experts