Born This Way Foundation: guided by research

Yesterday, Cynthia Germanotta and her daughter Lady Gaga launched their new initiative to empower youth: the Born This Way Foundation. The Foundation wants to create a kinder, braver world so that youth can be the change-agents that we all need them to be. For youth to be empowered, the Foundation recognizes that 1) youth need to be safe; 2) youth need to have skills; and 3) youth need to have opportunities.

Lady Gaga and her mother are not going at this alone. They’ve worked closely with Connie Yowell at the MacArthur Foundation to learn how to create a foundation. They’ve tapped the California Endowment, Blue State Digital, and Harvard’s Berkman Center to help them. They’ve pulled in youth, researchers, and practitioners to advise them. They’ve asked the public to engage with them, to help make this a grassroots initiative. They want all who are willing and able to help to join in and contribute. In short, they want to change the rules of philanthropy in order to create a movement.

Alongside John Palfrey, I am proud to be a Research Fellow on this project. For the last few months, John Palfrey and I have helped coordinate researchers and synthesize research in order to help inform the foundation. As part of our efforts to advise the Foundation, John and I created a working paper series where we work with scholars to synthesize research and provide grounded advice. We’ve been putting together all sorts of research material in order to help the Foundation and the public make sense of the amazing work that scholars have been doing for years. The first five documents that we prepared are now publicly available:

All of these documents are currently in draft form because we’d love the public’s feedback. If you have critiques, pleased send them to

We are super psyched to be embarking on this initiative. John and I have spent many years working to empower youth through research and we’re ecstatic to be given an opportunity to take this to the next level!

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2 thoughts on “Born This Way Foundation: guided by research

  1. Bev Freeman

    danah, per the last point in your article now posted in association with Born Thi way, we have to call out people – adult or youth – who are more than unkind – Limbaugh’s exchange with Fluke a student at Georgetown Law School who dared to differ with conservative views of religion and contraception – called a slut and promiscuous – has got to be addressed. So how do we do this? It is sick to see this covered in the NYT today with no sense that this man can be called to account for this viciousness. It is particularly alarming that we are creating an environment in which it is acceptable to say this. I can’t believe that the American people, generally, are this mean and can condone this. Without response it leads to a horrible suppression of differences especially from disenfranchised people, exactly those the foundation will represent. It is poignant that this appears a few pages following a story of Zhou Youguang, a brilliant Chinese historian who knows what oppression really feels like.

  2. Vicki Davis

    Great work! It is so exciting to see the work you have done and that it will be put into ACTION. Kindness and respect are lacking in so many human interactions. You and I have both experienced this sort of thing. Thank you for taking part.

    I shared this with our Digiteens as they do their project this semester. We have around 500 students from around the world studying this right now. When it is time to engage, let us know. We are excited to engage. It is such a great platform for Lady GAga who can put a face to the movement. Thanks for sharing.

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