On Friday, March 9th, 2018, the Board of Trustees at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, passed a resolution supporting the establishment of The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation committed $150 million to a joint effort with Johns Hopkins University to create the SNF Agora Institute, in order to forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.
Drawing inspiration from the Agora of ancient Athens, which was a hub of conversation and debate, and the center of the city-state’s democratic governance, the gift establishes the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, as an academic and public forum bringing together experts from fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history.
The Institute will examine the dynamics of societal, cultural and political polarization and develop ways to improve decision-making and civic discourse. It also will design and test mechanisms for strengthening democracy through dialogue and social engagement, and convene subject matter experts from a range of perspectives to explore new approaches to divisive issues.
World-renowned architect Renzo Piano and his Genoa-based office, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), will design the new headquarters of the Institute at Johns Hopkins. A proposed site on the University’s Homewood campus would replace what is currently a parking lot with a building hosting a director, ten faculty members, ten visiting scholars, and both graduate and undergraduate students. The University notes that this proposed location will offer visibility for the Institute and easy access for members of both the campus community and the broader Baltimore community. The space will accommodate a variety of public events, including an annual conference bringing together representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues. There will also be lectures, symposiums, dinners, and performances.
On Monday, November 12th, Johns Hopkins University’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute held its first Board of Overseers meeting. Co-chairing the Board are SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos and President of Johns Hopkins University Ron Daniels. Other members include chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States Dina Kawar, Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens, and renowned architect Renzo Piano, who is designing the Institute’s home at Hopkins. At the meeting, Mr. Piano presented preliminary design ideas for the new building. For a full list of Board members, click here.
The Agora Institute’s inaugural director is political scientist Hahrie Han. She is joined by Senior Fellows Anne Applebaum and Yascha Mounk.
Once a year, as part of the SNF’s DIALOGUES series during the Summer Nostos Festival, the SNF Agora Institute holds an open, public workshop at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), in Athens, Greece. This year’s inaugural event focused on “Disrupting Polarization” and introduced the type of work the Institute will be undertaking – from exploring the decline of modern dialogue and decision-making, to sharing lessons learned on promoting open discussion to proposing innovative reforms to reverse the corrosive deterioration of norms. The 2nd SNF Agora Institute workshop will take place on June 26th, 2019.