Demos (U.S. Think Tank) - History

History

In the late 1990s, Demos was conceptualized by Charles Halpern, President of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (1989–2000). Halpern wanted to create a counter-argument to the growing influence of the many right-wing think tanks and establish a multi-issue organization that would focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. David Callahan, a Fellow at the Century Foundation, and Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the EastWest Institute, joined Halpern in helping to found Demos. Founding Board members included Arnie Miller, of Isaccson Miller, an executive search firm; David Skaggs, a Colorado Congressman; and Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator.

In March 2000, Demos opened its first office in New York with Stephen Heintz as President. In this first year, Demos’ work focused on two issues: (1) economic inequities in America and the growing prosperity gap and (2) increasing civic participation and developing a more inclusive democracy. These two areas continue to be a large part of Demos’ core work. Demos’ work became especially relevant after the 2000 Presidential Election’s voter complications increased concern about the efficacy America’s election systems.

In 2001, Stephen Heintz stepped down and was replaced by Miles Rapoport, Connecticut legislator (1985–94) and Secretary of State (1995–98) with a background in social-change advocacy and community-building.

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