Mission & Impact

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute seeks to realize the promise of the ancient agora in modern times, by strengthening opportunities for people of all backgrounds to dialogue across difference, vigorously contest values and ideas that form the foundation of pluralistic democracy, and act together to have voice in developing solutions that lead to a better world.

We are an academic and public forum that integrates research, teaching, and practice to improve and expand powerful civic engagement and informed, inclusive dialogue as the cornerstone of robust global democracy. We work by generating scholarly insights and transforming them into usable knowledge for civic and political actors who can enable real-world change.

Founded in 2017 with a visionary $150 million gift to Johns Hopkins University from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the SNF Agora Institute draws inspiration from the ancient Athenian agora, a gathering place for shared conversation, debate, and action that became the heart of democratic governance in Athens.

Our objective is to translate the best insights from academic scholarship into actionable knowledge in the real world. As we are a university-based institute, our students and faculty are our core constituencies. However, through our research, teaching, and practice, our objective is to impact people who are or will become leaders of the modern-day agora. This includes the community leaders, advocates, non-governmental organizations, party organizations, public thinkers, and arbiters of the public information sphere who are catalysts of civil society around the world, and the students at Johns Hopkins who will go on to fill those positions. These leaders of the modern agora act as intermediaries connecting people to the political process, to allow proper functioning of the norms, behaviors, and institutions that make liberal democracy possible.

We organize our work around three core functions:

  • Discovery: At the core of the SNF Agora Institute is a group of Johns Hopkins University–based scholars who will catalyze transformative, multi-disciplinary inquiry to understand democratic decline and resilience, and to identify possible interventions.
  • Design: SNF Agora scholars will collaborate with practitioners to test practical interventions and translate academic research into usable knowledge for the world.
  • Dialogue: Created as a forum for broad engagement, deliberation, and education, the SNF Agora Institute will share our work with the public through teaching, training, writing, and convening in order to strengthen citizens’ capacity for productive participation and leadership in democracy.