Berggruen Institute

Since 2015, the Berggruen Institute’s Fellowship has welcomed over 110 fellows and developed critical analysis of political, economic and social institutions around the world.

In an age when global warming has begun to melt glaciers and raise sea levels, a novel coronavirus has killed an estimated 6.3 million people worldwide and Russia has invaded its neighboring Ukraine, the Berggruen Institute’s 2022-2023 class of fellows will join forces to develop new ideas around governance and society that could change the world. 

Since 2010, the Berggruen Institute has created a diverse network of academics and authoritative voices from myriad backgrounds to raise solutions for the most pressing political, economic and social issues of the 21st century.

“Our co-founder Nicolas Berggruen and co-founder Nathan Gardels had a discussion, and they realized that there was no such institute that could answer the needs of our current time,” said Jennifer Bourne, director of Fellowship. “So, they decided to establish their own.”

The Berggruen Institute’s objective is to create an enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe; fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West; strengthened the ballot initiative process in California; and launched Noema, a new publication that brings global leaders and innovators together to share ideas.

“(The founders) put on a series of events and convened a lot of conferences, and they realized they can’t do this on their own,” Bourne explained. “They had to seek help from other like-minded people. So, they were thinking about having a fellowship program to put the best possible minds from across cultural and political boundaries to explore their urgent issues over time and to help advance the solutions of the institute.”

In partnership with the University of Southern California Dornsife Center on Science, Technology and Public Life, Berggruen Fellowships offer scholars flexible periods of work and study in both the United States and China. The 2022-23 Berggruen Fellows will deliver and produce lectures, books, scholarly workshops, colloquia and academic articles throughout their fellowships.

“We will take the fellows to USC on a regular basis, and they will have opportunities to engage dialogue with USC faculties,” Bourne said. “They can give a colloquium and have USC faculty and students attend. So, they can engage a conversation within this academic setting, but on top of that we offer them something more. … By having them also with us at the Berggruen Institute’s office in Downtown LA, we actually offer them a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary working environment.”

This year’s class is comprised of fellows from fields as varied as sociology, geography, journalism, economics, history, technology and governance, and from regions as diverse as Austria, Hong Kong, South Africa and Greece.

Since the program’s genesis in 2015, the Berggruen Institute’s Fellowship boasts over 110 alumni fellows so far. Their fellows have also published 28 books written either during their fellowship year or in the immediate year after.

Over the last seven years, the themes of the Fellowship have evolved from comparative philosophy and religion to the unprecedented and accelerating changes reshaping the foundations of the modern world. Berggruen fellows’ independent research and points of collaboration will extend the institute’s programmatic work on what they call the Great Transformations: The Future of Capitalism, the Future of Democracy, the Planetary and Future Humans.

“One program area I’m really excited about is the Planetary program,” Bourne said of the program that will use Earth science to help inform international governance.

“This foundational concept is a break from the traditional human-centered understanding because some problems, like the COVID-19 pandemic or global warming, are not defined by nation states. They are whole Earth issues. 

“You would never think that things happening in Ukraine would be so close to our daily life here in the United States. Every inflation … the gas prices, even the inflation of just consumer goods … it’s a whole chain system. It’s planetary and everybody, human and nonhuman, is involved. It only takes some severe incidents for people realize, but it’s the work that we have been doing all this time.

“We’re developing this new program area to try to seek clarification and to foster what it means to be human, then develop new means and mechanisms to foster collaboration addressing planetary level challenges.”

In addition to the Planetary, the Future of Capitalism will retell the history of monetary policy and stability while studying efforts to reimagine its future, the Future of Democracy will examine the framework of social and political life mediated by the rise of new technologies, and Future Humans will explore why the idea of space as a “Western frontier” persists in contemporary aerospace culture.

Since COVID-19 restrictions have eased across LA, the Berggruen Institute is excited to welcome their new class of fellows back to a physical shared space where they can collaborate face to face at either USC or in their Downtown office.

By uniting a collection of accomplished minds from different backgrounds and professions, the Berggruen Institute hopes to use examinations of the past and collaboration in the present to help shape the future of humanity.


The Berggruen Institute