Renewing Americans’ faith in democracy
Inspiring re-engagement in self-government at all levels
The Challenge Ahead
If we are to renew popular faith in our democratic republic, we need to give people the knowledge, tools and encouragement they need to become more active, engaged citizens.
Numerous organizations are already working to protect our democratic institutions. Many others are focusing on civic culture in America by encouraging local journalism, social activism and cross-partisan dialogue. Still others are working on educating the next generation of citizens, particularly by leveraging the power of the internet to teach and connect young people.
Ultimately, all these efforts are necessary, but as of yet they have not been sufficient to renew Americans’ faith in democracy and to inspire us to re-engage in self-government at all levels.
This is the focus of our work: to grow the best ideas in the fields of civic education, participation and engagement so as to transform popular attitudes about democracy and inspire a measurable increase in constructive civic activity.
Who we are
Meet the team
Raj Vinnakota is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, effective July 1, 2019. He is currently working on a project for a group of institutional funders to map the general civic education space, in order to better understand the level and types of resources currently out there and to help everyone working in the field identify promising areas for growth and increased impact.
Raj is former executive vice president at the Aspen Institute, founding the Youth & Engagement Programs division. The thrust of Raj’s work was developing young citizens who care as much about the direction of their communities as their own self-interest (Aristotle’s civic virtue). Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Raj was the co-founder and CEO of The SEED Foundation, a non-profit managing the nation’s first network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools for underserved children. Raj attended Princeton University, from which he received a degree in Molecular Biology, as well as certificate of studies from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy.
Raj is a board director for a public company, Colfax Corporation (NYSE: CFX). He is a former trustee and executive committee member for Princeton University, former national chair of its annual giving committee, and former executive committee member for its Aspire capital campaign. In 2009, he received the Woodrow Wilson Award, the highest honor that Princeton bestows on an undergraduate alumnus. Raj is an Echoing Green fellow and an Ashoka fellow. He is married and has one daughter and one cat. He loves basketball, working out and learning from his daughter.
Catherine McKenna is an historian whose academic research centers on political thought and practice in republics, particularly the factors that lead to their success and failure. After more than two years of archival research in Poland supported by a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, she completed her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2012. Her dissertation focused on political theory and practice in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the tumultuous seventeenth century.
She is author of an upcoming book on the rise and fall of Polish-Lithuanian Republic and its parallels to the American case, entitled Liberty’s Double-Edged Sword. She brings 20+ years of experience researching and understanding the foundational requirements for a thriving republic and teaching European and World History.