Important Resources


Our elite class system is the predominant political and social force in our country at this time. And it has been that way since the beginning of not only our country but virtually all Western societies. 

In spite of this America is rich in democratic practices, attitudes, dispositions, organizations, systems, traditions, and committed people. In order to grow our democracy we must use and develop all of these resources as well as create more powerful ones.

In this section we list significant organizations and people who are behind growing our democracy, not just fixing what we have. Our list has four categories: Culture, Group Dynamics, Organizing, and Practice.

We see these as the four key elements in building a long-term democracy movement driven by everyday people in all of our diversity. These four categories are also the primary areas of concentration in our Growing Democracy Learning Labs.

We have begun this list in September 2023, and will add to it continuously. Please contact us if there are people or organizations you think belong on our lists, and tell us why.

Thank you and enjoy your explorations of our resources.

We are a biocultural species without comparison among all the others. As a result, the dynamic of culture drives our politics, not ideologies.

We are also a deeply cooperative and prosocial species as well as a free-loading, dominative, and violent one. This inherent, over-arching conflict within our biocultural being presents us with the fundamental problems of social life.

How we shape the culture that shapes us determines the balance of power between our prosocial and dominative patterns of living and relating. In other words, we have to shape the playing field as well as ourselves in order for one or the other to be the dominant force. Doing that is the calling of the Growing Democracy Project.

Paul W.B. Atkins, David Sloan Wilson, Steven C. Hayes

They are the co-authors of PROSOCIAL: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, & Collaborative Groups. In the book they devote eight chapters to a practical method for improving collaboration within and between the groups you care about. Each chapter elaborates on one of Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Core Design Principles.

They designed their Prosocial process to be modular. It contains six interlocking modules, which groups can use separately or in combination:

  1. Measurements for assessment and diagnosis
  2. The individual matrix
  3. The core design principles
  4. The collective matrix
  5. Goal setting
  6. Measurements for evaluating change

Jonathan Haidt

Haidt’s (pronounced like ‘height’) book The Righteous Mind goes deep into many things very central to growing democracy. Here we draw your attention primarily to Chapter 9, “Why Are We So Groupish?” It gives a wonderful summary of cultural evolution in a little more than 30 pages. 

He is the author and co-author of more than a few books and has co-founded a variety of organizations and collaborations that apply moral and social psychology toward that end, including , and . He teaches in the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Here’s a little taste from the end of the “Groupish” chapter: “Once our ancestors crossed the Rubicon and became cumulatively cultural creatures, their genes began to coevolve with their cultural innovations. At least some of these innovations were directed at marking members of a moral community, fostering group cohesion, suppressing aggression and free riding within the group, and defending the territory shared by that moral community.”

This chapter is part of a whole section—"Morality Binds and Blinds”—that focuses on cultural evolution. Most of the book presents a powerful theory of the moral foundations of human behavior. “Foundations” is a key word. There are five, maybe six, and they are the ground of our social relations.

Joseph Henrich

Henrich is the Professor and Chair of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. THE SECRET OF OUR SUCCESS: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter explores such questions as: How, in only about 12,000 years, did human societies expand from relatively small-scale hunter-gatherer bands to vast and complex nation states? What drives innovation and the process of cumulative cultural evolution? How does cultural evolution shape our psychology, brains, motivations, hormonal responses, intuitive reactions, beliefs, worldviews and preferences? 

In The Weirdest People in the World he takes on explaining the peculiar psychological and behavioral patterns observed in societies that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD societies)?

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson is president of the pioneering Prosocial World and SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. The breadth and variety of his work is remarkable and has had major impact on the development of evolutionary theory. In all of his current work and in almost four decades of research and writing he applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life.

He and Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate for her work in cooperative economics, connected the Core Design Principles that increase the efficacy of common pool resource groups with the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in all species and the biocultural evolution of our own species. This birthed the Prosocial World organization.

A complete archive of his work is available at www.David His most recent books include his first novel, Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III, and a memoir, A Life Informed by Evolution.

Colin Woodard

Woodard is one of the most respected authorities on North American regionalism, the sociology of United States

nationhood, and how our colonial past shapes and explains

the present. His work underscores how the complex role of culture drives our history and our politics today. In American Nations: A History of Eleven Rival Regional Culture of North America he illustrates and explains why “American” values vary sharply from one region to another and how these differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent’s history, from the American Revolution and the Civil War to the “blue county/red county” maps of recent presidential elections. Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood tells the harrowing story of the creation of the American myth of national unity in the 19th century, a story that reverberates in the news cycle today. American Character: The Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good traces the two key strands in American politics—the struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole—through the four centuries of its existence.