The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.
The foundation seeks to identify and address the challenges to making democracy work as it should through interrelated program areas that focus on citizens, communities, and institutions. Guiding Kettering’s research are three hypotheses. Kettering’s research suggests that democracy requires:
- Responsible citizens who can make sound choices about their future;
- Communities of citizens acting together to address common problems; and
- Institutions with public legitimacy that contribute to strengthening society.
The foundation’s small staff and extensive network of associates collaborate with community organizations, government agencies, researchers, scholars, and citizens around the world. A monthly meeting series brings together Kettering staff, associates, researchers, and others with whom the foundation works to explore a tightly focused research question or area. Those working on related problems share what they are learning at the foundation’s many meetings, which provide space for an ongoing exchange of ideas and stories in an effort to develop research interests.
As the foundation’s learning progresses, Kettering shares its research findings through books, research reports, occasional papers, videos, and its website. The foundation also disseminates its research in three periodicals: Connections, the Higher Education Exchange, and the Kettering Review.
In addition, Kettering produces materials, including issue books and starter videos, for the National Issues Forums (NIF), a network of civic and educational organizations whose common interest is promoting public deliberation. The foundation collaborates with NIF as part of its research efforts.
Established in 1927 by inventor Charles F. Kettering, the foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that does not make grants but engages in joint research with others. It is an operating foundation headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.