The Great Democracy Initiative was founded to address a critical problem: the current policy and political landscape makes it nearly impossible to focus on building a progressive policy agenda.

At a time when the daily news cycle keeps policymakers rushing from one outrageous incident to the next, it is easy to see why big, progressive ideas have taken a backseat. But if we focus only on responding to the torrent of tweet storms and near-daily political scandals or fending off efforts to slide a destructive policy agenda under the radar, we lose the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the policies of the future.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that, “A great democracy has got to be progressive, or else it will soon cease to be either great or a democracy.” Inspired by Roosevelt’s words, as well as his legacy, the Great Democracy Initiative will release detailed policy proposals that offer progressive solutions to the biggest problems of our time. From confronting the concentration of power in our economy to fundamentally reforming our broken government, GDI aims to produce policy blueprints aimed at taming government corruption, breaking the stranglehold that big corporations have on our economy, protecting our democracy from global threats, and building a prosperous, safe, and healthy society for all Americans. The Great Democracy Initiative is housed at the Roosevelt Institute, the nonprofit partner to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Team

Nell Abernathy, Acting Executive Director 

Nell Abernathy is Acting Executive Director at the Great Democracy Initiative. She is also Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy at the Roosevelt Institute. Prior to joining Roosevelt, Nell worked on political campaigns and in government for President Barack Obama, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. In addition, she worked as an economics reporter in emerging markets, including Nigeria, Ghana, Turkey, China, and Abu Dhabi. She holds an MA in International Finance and Economic Policy from Columbia University, and a BA from Brown University.

Suzanne Kahn, Deputy Director

Suzanne Kahn is Deputy Director at the Great Democracy Initiative. Suzanne most recently worked as a research analyst at SEIU 32BJ, where she built a program to organize workers in new residential developments. Prior to that, she worked on SEIU’s campaign to pass comprehensive healthcare reform. Suzanne holds a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University. Her forthcoming book, tentatively titled A Failed Separation: Divorce and the Origins of the Contemporary American Welfare State, won the American Society for Legal History’s Cromwell Dissertation Prize. 

Lindsay Owens, Fellow

Lindsay Owens is a fellow at the Great Democracy Initiative where her writing and research centers on building a progressive economic agenda for housing, climate, labor, and healthcare.  She previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director to Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Keith Ellison and as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University where she was a National Poverty Fellow and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. Her award-winning dissertation focused on the housing crash of 2008.

Julie Margetta Morgan, Executive Director and Co-Founder (on leave)

Julie Morgan is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Great Democracy Initiative. She is also a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She previously served as a senior counsel to Senator Elizabeth Warren, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in multiple roles at the Center for American Progress. Julie holds a Ph.D. in higher education and a J.D. from Boston College.

Ganesh Sitaraman, Director of Policy and Co-Founder

Ganesh Sitaraman was a Co-founder of Great Democracy Initiative, and he previously served as its Director of Policy. He is a professor of law at Vanderbilt University.