About Understanding Government

Through better journalism — to greater public understanding and more effective government

Founded in 1999, Understanding Government is a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving government effectiveness by deepening public knowledge about the executive branch of government.

Our goal is to improve the way journalists report on government and thereby to increase public understanding of executive branch programs, priorities, and problems.  We are interested in policy formation, but we are mainly committed to improving the way government implements policy and expends public resources.

We report on government, highlight the best journalism about government, and commission special reports about different challenges America faces, including ways to overcome them.

Preventive journalism is a guiding principle at Understanding Government.  Preventive journalism is reporting that finds problems before they become crises.  It is investigative journalism before the scandal breaks, before the levies break, before taxpayers’ money is wasted, before the public health and safety is threatened.  It includes solutions and follow-on reporting to see which solutions are working and which are leading us further astray.

The executive branch is where policy is supposed to be turned into action.  Yet the public knows little about what happens there — about which agencies are doing useful work and which are wasting the public’s money and time.  If the public gains better knowledge of the workings of the executive branch, it will take a more informed view about government and government accountability.  Understanding Government is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving the performance of the executive branch by helping journalists do a better job of covering it.  We raise funds from a variety of private sources in order to achieve this mission. These funds support the three major activities of the foundation:

1.  Understanding Government’s website, a source for blogging and original reporting on the work of government and a forum for discussion and debate;

2.  Commissioned reports from leading journalists on current issues of importance in politics and government affairs; and

3. Our Preventive Journalism program, which promotes reporting that brings attention to major national problems before they reach crisis stage, and includes analysis of proposed solutions.