the process


Our political system has become so polarizing that — whomever we elect — the president, the House and Senate are virtually certain to deadlock over how to resolve our country’s long-term problems. And each day, various media, candidates and institutions further stoke Americans’ hostility toward one another — so that 23 percent now believe violence is justified to advance their political views.

To break this cycle of divisiveness and dysfunction, the Center for Collaborative Democracy (CCD), working with the Consensus Building Institute (CBI), has launched the Grand Bargain Project.

It is based on our research that six policy objectives represent a unique opportunity to unite over 80 percent of Americans around a shared vision of our country's future and thereby reverse the hyperpolarization that is tearing our country apart.

Those objectives:
• Boosting economic mobility, productivity, and growth
• Reforming education so students can reach their potential
• Making healthcare more effective and less costly
• Curbing the national debt
• Stabilizing the climate
• Making the tax code fairer and simpler

Over 90 percent of Americans see one or more of these goals as critical to their family’s future. Yet each objective is unattainable now, because any major reform faces fierce opposition from groups that want different approaches, and from media and candidates who thrive by stoking voters’ discontent about the underlying problems.

To overcome these long-standing obstacles to progress, and enable the American people to turn their aspirations for a brighter future into a reality, the Grand Bargain Project is unfolding in five phases:

The Process

Bring together widely respected policy researchers and former policymakers to tackle  America's major issues in search of a preliminary grand bargain that will set the stage  for a comprehensive negotiation among representatives for all stakeholding groups.

Phase 1

Current policies are so flawed, so costly, that we tested a two-part idea: 1) Common sense reforms for all six issues, if combined, would significantly increase the benefits to society, while reducing the total costs. 2) If those benefits were shared widely enough, nearly every American would far prefer those reforms compared to where they are now.

The test confirming these ideas is described in Appendix I. (See appendices in the PDF.)

We then commissioned a team of 13 former policymakers and think tank leaders from across the political spectrum (listed in Appendix II) to bolster our evidence by working out a practical plan for advancing these objectives so that every sector of society would have far greater opportunities to thrive.

Each person who has seen the experts’ report to date has found parts they disliked. Yet all evaluated the total package as far better for their families and the entire country than the direction we are now headed

Identify 50 advocates whom the public would most trust to speak for them, and 50 leaders of stakeholder organizations. Invite all 100 to participate in a  potentially historic negotiation that will resolve six critical national issues.

Phase 2

To work out a more detailed plan that all sectors of the public will support, we are applying our experience with over 200 political controversies in which trusted spokespeople for business, consumers, environmentalists, labor unions, educators, civil rights groups — and other stakeholders — hammered out agreements far better for each side than continuing to clash. Each spokesperson, having earned their own community’s trust, was able to win their full support.

Our conclusion: To make significant progress toward the six goals listed on page 1, we need to identify people outside government whom citizens in each sector of society would trust to speak for them on those subjects. To that end, we are working with APCO Worldwide and Mercury LLC to enlist top influencers from government, media, arts, business, faith community, youth, popular culture to support the project. We are also enlisting:

- 50 civic leaders from across the country who have earned the public’s trust
- 50 leaders of the organizations most politically active on the six issues

The project steering committee will invite the 100 leaders to meet online to work out a detailed agreement far better for the people they represent than the status quo.

Convene the 50 public and 50 organizational advocates to rework the initial grand bargain into a complete package that will advance the long-term interests of the entire public.

Phase 3

To help the leaders hash out a detailed agreement, we will ask them to use the experts’ report as a starting point.

We will organize the 100 leaders into six working groups, one for each issue, exploring changes to the original proposal that could increase the appeal to the greatest number of participants. Each group will also include:
- one representative from each of the five other groups, to seek trades across the six issues that could maximize the total benefits of the evolving agreement
- an experienced facilitator from the Consensus Building Institute to help bridge differences
- two policy experts to help refine details
- two appointed co-leads

The co-leads will meet as a Group of 12 to integrate the working groups’ proposals into a package encompassing all six issues.

As this process proceeds, we expect more of the participants to strongly support the emerging agreement

Help each advocate tailor a message to his/her constituents, showing them  how the grand bargain would significantly improve the quality of their lives.

Phase 4

We will widely publicize the initial convening, making the case that whatever emerges will be far better for every family than what our hyperpolarized political system can produce.

We will also help each negotiator who supports the emerging agreement to tailor multi-media messages showing the people he/she represents how the overall pact would vastly improve the quality of their lives.

We will also seek support for the emerging grand bargain from local civic groups, political commentators, media figures, good government organizations, and on appropriate social media.

These combined messages could especially motivate the “exhausted majority” of citizens who deplore today’s hyper-partisan politics to become politically active.

How other organizations might spread the word and  mobilize Americans to support the Grand Bargain.

Building Support

When the leaders first convene, our affiliated Grand Bargain Action Network and other 501(c)4s will begin to mobilize the exhausted majority of voters with messages such as:

The people you most trust are working out a grand bargain that will create far more opportunities for your family to thrive. For that pact to make a real difference, you need to let candidates know how strongly you support it.

We expect hundreds of organizations promoting economic mobility, quality education and healthcare, environmental sustainability, strong democracy or fiscal responsibility will join in spreading that message. We will also seek support for the emerging grand bargain from local civic groups, political commentators, media figures, good government organizations, and on appropriate social media.

As the number of Americans supporting the emerging grand bargain increases, a growing number of politicians and candidates would see it as being in their self-interest to publicly pledge to use the pact as the roadmap for navigating our country’s economic and environmental challenges.

Addressing obstacles to the plan, including negotiating tactics, privacy concerns, and media distortions.


Various media will misrepresent the project’s purpose and distort the advocates’ recommendations.

Media spreading disinformation will keep undermining our society unless Americans who have earned the trust of voters across the spectrum get an opportunity to work together on bridging differences. Those trusted individuals, and they alone, could persuade most voters to ignore the lies and distortions.

The project is unlikely to change the minds of voters who embrace tribalism, nihilism or extremism.

Our objective is to offer Americans a policy agenda that the vast majority will see as being in their best interests. That strikes us as the strongest way to motivate most citizens to reject tribalism and extremism.

The project is far more ambitious than any other endeavor of its kind.

In hundreds of conversations with political activists, academics and think tank leaders, no one has offered us a viable alternative for resolving our nation’s differences on critical issues. Indeed, pro-democracy organizations have spent billions of dollars in recent years trying to bridge those divisions, yet our country keeps growing more divided. And the $30+ billion that will be spent on the coming election campaign will further stoke Americans’ animosity toward one another.

By contrast, this project — which will cost under $10 million — is designed to overcome fundamental flaws in our political system and could have a far greater impact than any recent endeavor we know of

Expected outcomes and successes in 2024. Goal for 2025.


(1) Vast majority of stakeholders and public advocates will agree on optimal solutions for the six issues (2) The exhausted majority will become increasingly energized to participate in political life (3) As much of society as feasible will unite around a positive agenda (4) Constructive debate over public policy will become far more dominant in our political discourse

Major Goal for 2025:

The next Congress will likely face record public disapproval ratings for Capitol Hill’s recent dysfunctions. If the lawmakers want to raise their standing with the public, and expand their base of support, they will need to listen to the newly aroused majority — and use the grand bargain as a governing agenda.