A Community-Driven Path to Replenishing Groundwater in a Parched Region
Villages in a drought-plagued part of North India have been transformed by local meetings and a revival of old farming practices.
How an Interactive Database Brought Earthquake Relief to Off-the-Map Villages
An online platform transformed aid efforts in rural Morocco, where remote communities are tucked deep in the mountains.
The Portlanders Going Electric
Induction stoves? Tax breaks? Local groups are demystifying the whys and hows of home decarbonization.
Talk About It: How Climate Conversation Groups Inspire Action
When it comes to the climate crisis, discussion doesn’t just decrease anxiety — it spurs real change, too.
‘A Cultural Shift Toward Living With Fire’
The FireGen collaborative wants to diversify not only the wildfire workforce, but the tactics we use to confront fire, too.
The Flashlight-Wielding, Frog-Taxiing Guardians of Spring’s ‘Big Night’
Once a year, as amphibians scramble across America’s roads to spawn, a devoted army of volunteers emerges to shepherd them pond-ward unscathed.
Why Won’t You Recycle My Batteries?
Europe’s ubiquitous recycling system for household batteries means virtually none get thrown away. How come the US doesn’t have something similar?
This High School Gave Spending Power to Students
Participatory budgeting in Rhode Island began with handing $10,000 to teens. Now this form of direct democracy is spreading across the state.
Where Do Abandoned Bicycles Go? In Some Cases, Madagascar
In a largely unseen system, abandoned bikes are repaired and shipped to people across the US — and around the world — who can use them to travel to school or work.
Tight-Knit Communities Are a Secret Weapon Against Climate Change
Research shows that “social infrastructure” saves lives in extreme weather events. Now some groups are working to actively build it.
In Baltimore, Healing Trauma Is Now Official Policy
A groundbreaking law directs city agencies and employees — from cops to librarians — to root out practices that cause trauma. Already, lives have been saved.
Japan’s ‘Zero Waste’ Village Is a Model for Small-Town Sustainability
In Kamikatsu, recycling isn’t just an environmental imperative — it’s the glue that unifies a community.
Remote Work Is a Chance to Do Something Meaningful
In the work-from-anywhere era, it’s easier than ever to keep earning your salary while volunteering abroad.
How America’s First ‘Heat Officers’ Are Cooling Miami and Los Angeles
For the first time, two US cities are treating extreme heat as a crisis — and dealing with it accordingly.
Australia’s ‘Teal Independents’ Are a Conservative Force for Climate Action
Right-wing electorates in Australia are voting in eco-conscious, emissions-slashing conservatives. Could this political strategy be exported?
The Nature Lover’s App That Became a Catalog of Earth’s Biodiversity
In the millions of posts on iNaturalist, users are unearthing new species, tracking invasive insects and making incredible discoveries. Scientists are taking note.
A New Bipartisan Act Aims to Make America Get Along
The Building Civic Bridges Act would create more opportunities for connections between Americans who might otherwise never interact.
Meet the ‘Future Generations’ Commissioner of Wales
Sophie Howe has one job: make sure her country’s policies benefit citizens who haven’t been born yet.
Democracy Comes to Michigan
After a citizen-led campaign to draw fairer voting maps, this year Michigan voters will finally choose their politicians — instead of the other way around.
Through Online Platforms, Thousands Open Their Homes to Ukraine’s Refugees
Airbnb-style home sharing is changing what it means to be displaced.
Does Your City Need a ‘Youth Council’ for Climate Change?
In a growing number of cities, teenagers are advising governments on sustainability — and holding mayors to account.
How Berlin Lets the Whole City Care for Its Trees
Urban trees need a little extra care. In the German capital, anyone can give it to them.
The Program That is Changing Lives by Phone
A support system pairs people who are unhoused with housed volunteers to offer phone support on the spot.
The Movement to Give ‘Personhood’ Rights to Animals
Legal systems around the world are beginning to confront an existential question: What rights does an animal have?
Locked Up and Finding Their Way Together
In California’s prisons, lifers — both human and canine — are setting each other free.
These Guides Help Defendants Avoid the Legal System’s Boobytraps
When filling out forms with the wrong color ink can lead to jail time, you need a navigator.
What It’s Like to Vote from Jail
For Americans serving time but still allowed to cast a ballot, the democratic process struggles on.
From a Prison Garden Sprouts Real Growth
Amid rows of snap peas and summer squash, incarcerated gardeners cultivate job skills, inner peace and fresh produce for the cafeteria.
Keeping People Out of Jail Keeps People Out of Jail
To reduce incarceration, some counties and cities have stopped automatically prosecuting minor nonviolent crimes — and crime overall has gone down. A wave of policy and policing reform has followed.
“Vaccine Ambassadors” Are Finding Toronto’s Hardest to Reach
They’re regular folks who share the lived experience of those yet to be vaccinated.
Would You Dine in This Prison?
At the Clink, incarcerated chefs and waiters serve world-class cuisine to the public — and prepare for life on the outside.
Could a Citizens’ Assembly Help Fix Your Democracy?
Allowing randomly selected people to influence government policies has promise — and limitations.
‘Vaccine Altruists’ Are Finding Appointments for Strangers
For those who don’t have the time or computer savvy to scour the internet, a volunteer movement is emerging.
Inside the L.A.P.D.’s Experiment in Trust-Based Policing
Can the notoriously hardline force become an ally to Black communities?
Look What I Got!
New Zealand improved recycling rates by awarding shiny gold stars, showing that social approval can be a more powerful motivator than money.
New Zealand Is Infusing Policing With a Social Work Philosophy
Nimble, culturally nuanced and collaborative, this Māori-led response gets to the roots of family violence.
Strangers Are Welcoming People Released from Prison into Their Homes
Skeptical at first, participants on both sides now see a solution that benefits everyone.
Oregon’s New Hard Drugs Policy Is Both Radical and Sane
Legal magic mushrooms? Tolerance for heroin and meth? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
The Right Way to Topple a Statue
How one Canadian city took down a monument to an iconic leader in a way that brought its residents closer together.
Botswana’s Radical Experiment in National Unity
By forcing workers to move far from home and live with unfamiliar people, the government is testing the limits of identity.
A Tool for Understanding
What if, instead of hating each other’s beliefs, we learned more about where they come from?
When Racism Strikes, Here’s How to Record It
Not every racist act fits a police report, but capturing the data on everyday racism is key to creating change.
Why Kindness Is a Winning Campaign Tactic
Amid all the mudslinging is a proven fact: Civility wins the hearts of voters.
Cops and Community Organizers Are Reimagining Atlanta’s Jail
An unlikely collaboration could transform a place of imprisonment into a center for equity.
How Can I Convince You?
In the first in a series of interviews with Stanford polarization researchers, Robb Willer explains how to persuade someone they agree with you – whether they know it or not.
Are You Liberal? Are You Sure?
A growing body of research suggests our political beliefs are flexible – and that we may be more capable of understanding the other side than we realize.
The Unlikely Friendship that Helped Legalize Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland
In Ireland, 100 private citizens advise parliament on policy. Two of them changed each other’s lives — and, perhaps, their country’s constitution.
Muslim Voters Are Finding Their Voice
Rockstar candidates, get-out-the-vote drives and mosques with polling stations are changing the political fortunes for a long-underrepresented faith group.
We Know How to Fix the Police
The data proves that regulating police behavior results in fewer killings of civilians.
How a Bronx Community Is Winning the Census
Co-Op City was built as a grand experiment in social-justice housing. Fifty years later, its civic values are paying off.
How a Group of Political Novices Ended Gerrymandering in Michigan
Their success proves that you don’t need political power — or a Supreme Court majority — to get fair congressional districts.
Utah Has Perfected Social-Distance Voting
Americans may find themselves following the state’s stay-at-home playbook in this year’s presidential election.
There’s a Better Way to Vote
The Coronavirus-Proof Nation
Taiwan has built a pragmatic, solutions-oriented society where democracy is expected to deliver results. Amid the pandemic, it’s paying off.
The Beautiful Place that Stopped Big Bottled Water
As Washington State moves to ban companies from selling its spring water, the story of Hood River County shows how even a small place can stop the extraction of its most precious resource.
How South Africa Ended Its Secret Births
A country where many parents once hid their children’s existence from the government has achieved something once thought impossible: universal birth registration.
Is It Okay to Copy China?
A country that opposes human rights and democracy is also coming up with some smart solutions. Can we emulate the good without endorsing the bad?
Reforesting the Ocean
Recently, Australian scientists proved something we once thought impossible: we can regrow the ocean forests we’ve destroyed. Now they’ve set their sights on a tougher challenge… and they can’t do it alone.
Changing Behavior: Economic Incentives
Mexico’s tax on sugary drinks will save thousands of lives and millions of dollars. Ahhh… sweet social change.
This Lake Belongs to Everyone
A city on Lake Erie convinced its waterfront property owners to give the public their waterfronts for free. It’s a case that could transform the Great Lakes forever.
Our Bicycle Future
At the Bicycle Architecture Biennale, spacious parking garages and elegant water crossings point the way to a two-wheeled utopia.
Treating Loneliness as a Medical Condition
When a small-town clinic in England started prescribing human connection to its lonely patients, rates of chats over coffee increased—and hospital visits fell.
Crushed by negative news?
Sign up for the Reasons to be Cheerful newsletter.