Progress,
Please

The Progress Network is building an idea movement that speaks to a better future in a world dominated by voices that suggest a worse one.

We live in a time marked by pessimism. Battered daily by negative headlines and facing a post-COVID world whose problems seem manifold and everlasting, it’s easy to assume we are heading for disaster. It may be that the story of chaos and collapse will prove to be true. If so, the information and analysis undergirding that view are readily available. We need little help making those arguments.

But what if it’s not true? The ideas and evidence for the opposite outcome, largely unheard, exist in equal measure. The Progress Network connects and amplifies those voices that are pointing our world in a more positive direction, providing a template for a stable and sustainable future. Our contributors come from diverse fields of business, tech, journalism, politics, and more, but are united in their conviction that humanity’s ingenuity and willingness to cooperate for the common good is ultimately more potent than forces pulling in the other direction.

The recently released COVID Response Tracking Study reports that Americans are the unhappiest they have been in 50 years. Only 42% of Americans believe that standards of living are improving for the next generation, and even larger percentages are convinced that the country is on the wrong track. According to the Pew Foundation, that sense of future gloom is increasingly prevalent throughout the world, especially among developed nations where more than 60% see a grimmer economic future for their children and a world rent by political, demographic, and environmental crisis. Add to that the increased and painful awareness of how wide the gap remains between ideals of social justice and equity and the reality of racial and class disparities, and you have one of the more fraught and difficult moments any of us have faced.

What, then, is to be done? Pessimism can focus the mind, but it can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading people to detach and despair rather than galvanizing us. The Progress Network starts with the idea that the widely shared belief that we can work collectively toward a more constructive future is a non-negotiable component of building that future. It is our mission to boost that belief, not through “feel-good” news but the sharing of the careful and considered, yet inspiring, thinking of constructive public voices.

The sense of a downward trajectory is enhanced not just by the pandemic but by a news and noise culture that foments an almost constant feeling of crisis. It has always been true, of course, that hot emotions such as fear and outrage command more immediate attention, hence the old media adage: “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead.” In a world where exponentially more players compete for billions of eyeballs, that has translated into ever higher levels of anxiety.

It’s entirely possible that things will indeed get worse, and that is where The Progress Network becomes vital: what happens now and in the time ahead is not ordained. It’s up to each of us to define that future. But the information, analysis, and sensibility that points in a more constructive direction, even in the thick of one of the most challenging times for humanity since World War II, are wholly overshadowed.

There are a plethora of individuals and organizations who are marshaling data, advancing debate, and creating templates for addressing and ameliorating our problems, yet those remain atomized and less than the sum of their parts. The goal of The Progress Network is to create critical mass, connect those voices with one another, and provide a megaphone for their work and ideas. Our lens is neither rose-tinted nor Pollyannish but instead grounded in the intensive and rigorous argumentation and analysis of our members. They are not all in agreement, but they share a sensibility of building on what is working and focusing on how we can make progress more than on how far short we are falling.

This work is a crucial ingredient in ensuring that the future is indeed one where more people have both their material and existential needs met. We are an incubator and connector, enhancing our chances of working collectively to build that, rather than giving in to the fragmentation and decline that so many expect and so many believe is our fate. The present feels almost unbearably messy, but these are the times to reshape the world.

Our Members:

Penny Abeywardena | NYC Commissioner for International Affairs
Ashton Applewhite
| This Chair Rocks
Andrew Bacevich | The Quincy Institute
Roy Bahat | Bloomberg Beta
Safi Bahcall | Loonshots
Joan Blades | Living Room Conversations
Jason E. Bordoff | Columbia University
David Bornstein | Solutions Journalism Network
Jennifer Finney Boylan | Barnard College
Ian Bremmer | Eurasia Group
Arthur Brooks | Harvard
David Brooks | The New York Times
Erik Brynjolfsson | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sylvia M. Burwell | American University
Alice Chen | Doctors for America
Nicholas A. Christakis | Yale University
Danielle Keats Citron | Boston University
Steve Clemons | The Hill
Tyler Cowen | George Mason University
Diane Coyle | University of Cambridge
Michael Crow | Arizona State University
Adam Davidson | The New Yorker
David Deutsch | University of Oxford
Angela Duckworth | Character Lab
Bobby Duffy | The Policy Institute
Gregg Easterbrook | The Atlantic
R. P. Eddy | Ergo
Ezekiel J. Emanuel | University of Pennsylvania
Deborah Fallows | New America
James Fallows | The Atlantic
Jason Feifer | Entrepreneur magazine
Bruce Feiler | Council of Dads
Richard Florida | University of Toronto
Diane Francis | National Post
Thomas Friedman | The New York Times
Archon Fung | Harvard University
Scott Galloway | New York University
Barry Glassner | Lewis & Clark College
Joshua Goldstein | American University
Alison Goldsworthy | The Depolarization Project
Adam Grant | University of Pennsylvania
Michael Green | Social Progress Imperative
Ulrik Haagerup | The Constructive Institute
Jonathan Haidt | New York University
Angus Hervey | Future Crunch
Noreena Hertz | University College London
John Horgan | Stephens Institute of Technology
Linda A. Hill | Harvard University
Theodore R. Johnson | New York University
Hubert Joly | Harvard Business School
Peniel E. Joseph | University of Texas at Austin
Valarie Kaur | Revolutionary Love Project
Charles Kenny | The Center for Global Development
Ayesha Khanna | ADDO AI
Parag Khanna | FutureMap
Lauren Leader | All In Together
Kishore Mahbubani | National University of Singapore
Courtney E. Martin | Solutions Journalism Network
Andrew McAfee | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
John W. McArthur | Brookings Institution
Heather McGhee | Color of Change
Rita McGrath | Valize
Andrew McLaughlin | Higher Ground Labs
John McWhorter | Columbia University
Manu Meel | BridgeUSA
Yascha Mounk | Johns Hopkins University
Diana C. Mutz | University of Pennsylvania
Ted Nordhaus | The Breakthrough Institute
Suzanne Nossel | PEN America
Eli Pariser | MoveOn.org
Eboo Patel | Interfaith Youth Core
Steven Pinker | Harvard University
Victoria Pratt | Rutgers School of Criminal Justice
Rachel Pritzker | Pritzker Innovation Fund
Alissa Quart | Economic Hardship Reporting Project
Tina Rosenberg | Solutions Journalism Network
Alec Ross | The Industries of the Future
Linda Rottenberg | Endeavor Global
Avik Roy | FREOPP
Deb Roy | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar | Ideas Beyond Borders
Anne-Marie Slaughter | New America
Yancey Strickler | The Bento Society
Lawrence Susskind | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alex Tabarrok | George Mason University
Robert B. Talisse | Vanderbilt University
Jonathan Tepperman | Foreign Policy
Gillian TettFinancial Times
Nicholas Thompson | Wired
Krista Tippett | On Being
Zeynep Ton | Good Jobs Institute
Sherry Turkle | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Maren Urner | Perspective Daily
Bina Ventakataraman | The Boston Globe
Joan Williams | University of California Hastings
Thomas Chatterton Williams | The New York Times Magazine
John Wood, Jr. | Braver Angels
Seán Wood | Positive News
Robert Wright | Nonzero Foundation
Matthew Yglesias | Slow Boring
Fareed Zakaria | CNN

The Progress Network is based at the organization New America. Get in touch with us at hello@theprogressnetwork.org.

divider

Explore
the network

BEHIND THE SCENES

Founder

Zachary Karabell

Zachary Karabell is the founder of the Progress Network. He is an author, columnist, and investor and president of River Twice Capital. Previously, he was Head of Global Strategies at Envestnet, a publicly traded financial services firm. Prior to that, he was President of Fred Alger & Company. In addition, he ran the River Twice Fund from 2011–2013, an alternative fund that focused on sustainability.

Educated at Columbia, Oxford and Harvard, where he received his PhD, Karabell has written widely on history, economics, and international relations. His latest book, Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power, was published by Penguin Press in May 2021. He is the author of twelve previous books, including The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World, Peace Be Upon You: The Story of Muslim, Christian and Jewish Coexistence, and The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Presidential Election. He also sits on the board of New America and PEN America.

Karabell hosts the podcast “What Could Go Right?” and is a Contributing Editor for Wired and for Politico. He is a frequent contributor to Time and The Washington Post and previously wrote “The Edgy Optimist” column for Slate, Reuters, and The Atlantic. He is a LinkedIn Influencer and a commentator on CNBC, Fox Business, and MSNBC, and contributes to such publications as The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesForeign Policy, and Foreign Affairs.

Executive Director

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas, an editor and writer with over a decade’s experience in nonprofit media, is the executive director of The Progress Network. She was formerly the executive editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the premier publication covering Buddhist news, culture, and Buddhism’s new home in the West, where she oversaw editorial strategy and production as well as the release of several new ventures, including Buddhism for Beginners.

She is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications, Touching Ground: Devotion and Demons Along the Path of Enlightenment, and Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up, and is currently working on The India Years, a historical narrative of the time spent by today’s most popular Western meditation teachers in 70s-era Asia. She is a 2021 Dialog Emerging Fellow. A graduate of New York University, where she double-majored in journalism and religious studies, she has also studied Tibetan Buddhism at Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal.