New Initiatives

Image credit: "Clocks" [cropped] by Leo Reynolds / CC BY 2.0.

The SSRC has a long tradition of innovation. As the world changes, and as new challenges arise that social scientists should address, the Council develops new areas of work, creates or transforms fields of inquiry, generates new capacities or connections across existing disciplines, and bridges social science thinking and knowledge to policy constituencies, the media, and the broader public. In incubating new initiatives, the SSRC works by assessing existing states of knowledge, appraising where attention might best be deployed, and convening exploratory gatherings to sharpen the central questions around which to design and animate new work.

Currently, the Council is developing the following new initiatives:

Anxieties of Democracy

The initiative on Anxieties of Democracy is motivated by a deep concern about whether the core institutions of representative democracies—elections, mass media, political parties, interest groups, social movements, and especially, legislatures—that connect citizens and civil society to the political system can capably address large problems in the public interest. The program includes both a particular focus on US democracy and a global perspective on established democracies across world regions.

The Democracy Papers are essays by leading experts convened to consider how representative democracies might govern more effectively.

Funding for this exploration has been provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Decent City

The Decent City initiative is premised on the existing and deepening centrality of urban space to human experiences and is grounded by a set of normative questions concerning how the core characteristics of big cities can be mobilized to make human life more just and democratic. We are approaching these questions through three entry points: urban design and the built environment; human heterogeneity and intergroup toleration; and inequality’s causes and consequences.

The Cities Papers is a digital collection of thought pieces produced by scholars and practitioners who participated in several gatherings to further shape this initiative’s agenda.

Funding for this exploration has been provided by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Digital Culture

Through a set of new and emerging projects, the SSRC seeks to grapple with changes associated with digitization and digital media, which have immense implications for how knowledge and culture are produced, circulated, and consumed.

Scholarly Borderlands

A new set of initiatives that cross intellectual borders to sharpen ways to inquire is taking shape under the rubric of Scholarly Borderlands. These efforts aim to build fresh ties within the social sciences, to foster new patterns of scholarship, and to more robustly link the social sciences to work in science and the humanities.