The Foundation

Who are we?

Created in 2022, the Innovation Foundation for Democracy is a pan-African non-profit organization whose aim is to contribute to the emergence of models of democracy rooted in African history, cultures and territories.

A network of campuses known as Labos, its vocation is to become a place for the creation and organization of new flows of ideas and new links between players in the field. Its influence extends across the continent, in dialogue with African diasporas and the rest of the world.

To re-open the possibilities and support a democratic awakening in Africa, we rely on the wealth of endogenous resources, the energy of youth, the voice of women, the power of collective intelligence and the momentum of communities.

It supports and accompanies new and existing initiatives that bring thought and practice into dialogue through the facilitation of collective intelligence.

Where do we come from?

The idea of creating a Foundation for Innovation in Democracy emerged during an extensive consultation process that began in the run-up to the New Africa-France Summit in Montpellier (2021), with exchanges organized in 12 countries across the continent and with the diaspora.

This process continued with working seminars held in Johannesburg (South Africa) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast), and was enriched by field surveys carried out by the Timbuktu Institute during the summer of 2022 and by the mapping-interviews carried out by Make Sense – Make Sense Africa.

It has also been enriched by the wealth of critical thinking on democracy that Africans themselves have been engaged in for several decades, within various schools of thought, such as the Ateliers de la pensée de Dakar.

What do we do?

The Foundation brings together and equips democracy activists, helping them to think in common, to project themselves into an open and free horizon, and to network in order to take action. It supports their projects and helps them grow.

In concrete terms, the Foundation :

  • Supports research into democracy in dialogue with society ;
  • Proposes educational venues and programs that promote understanding of major issues, strengthen exchanges and autonomy, restore the desire to act and embody the ambition to renew thought;
  • Supports the emergence, networking and/or consolidation of collectives by backing ten or so flagship initiatives in a differentiated, tailor-made way, through new forms of financing;
  • Puts collective intelligence at the heart of projects. It is open to a wide range of players, to new social groups, to those who are not necessarily connected, thanks to proactive approaches that include citizens who have long been disengaged. With a view to building common ground, the Foundation also strives to network these collectives, both through the digital platform and by creating safe havens for activists threatened in their home countries.

What is our ambition?

The Foundation’s aim is to nurture thinking on democracy and to rearm it in an orchestrated way on the ground, based on endogenous resources, with as many people as possible, in a variety of formats and in a multiplicity of places, in a systemic approach that opens up to civil society, new technologies and ethical issues, and that puts the living at the heart of everything.

What are our foundations?

Our actions are based on the following four principles:

  1. The need to root democracy in the long term: this means getting away from the “short time” of “short-term projects” and taking into account the specific features of each territory. Above all, this means rethinking every intervention from the point of view of pre-existing ecosystems and cultural and institutional deposits which, in line with ancient African cosmogonies, give pride of place to repairing, caring for and protecting the living.
  2. The urgent need for a contextual, culturally-rooted approach that listens to people. To help African societies regenerate from their endogenous resources, the Foundation encourages them to move away from linear models and European-centric approaches to democracy; to fill the gap in original thinking on democracy in Africa; to promote dialogue between thought and action; to give priority to experimental projects with an open approach, to encourage collaborative logics; to document experiences and model them, study them, transform them into teaching resources and disseminate them with a view to producing new commons.
  3. The need to focus on young people and women because, although demographically in the majority, these social categories are in the minority under existing political systems.
  4. Refocusing the African democratic project on safeguarding the living, because caring for and protecting the living is at the heart of sustainable democratic renewal.

Key dates

april 2023

Presentation of the team and program to the Board of Directors.

october 2022

Launch of the Innovation for Democracy Foundation in Johannesburg at a ceremony at the Tshimologong Digital Precint, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

july 2022

Foundation statutes signed in Johannesburg

october 2021

Ahead of the new Africa-France summit, submission of Professor Achille Mbembe’s report to President Emmanuel Macron, which includes, as proposal number 1, the creation of a fund to support and network the players involved in reinventing democracy on the African continent.

We contribute to

Listing and linking

Ahead of the new Africa-France summit, submission of Professor Achille Mbembe’s report to President Emmanuel Macron, which includes, as proposal number 1, the creation of a fund to support and network the players involved in reinventing democracy on the African continent.


Research in a different way, by opening up to society and delving into archives. Generate new ideas, new knowledge, new understandings, new skills, new curricula, new voices, a desire to act. Produce democratic thoughts and paths rooted in cultures and territories.


Transmit or co-create the tools needed to find new ways of thinking together, disseminate ideas, foster collective intelligence, develop democratic innovations, deploy them and publicize them.


Reinforce knowledge, awareness, skills, autonomy, creativity, commitment and the desire to act. Support new players in democracy.

Sharing, enhancing

Sharing information, knowledge, intellectual and educational resources and tools; promoting works of art, innovations and the groups behind them; making the voices of democracy in Africa heard.


Provide financial and technical support for collectives and initiatives; publicize them; network them; help them disseminate their innovations.

Our values



Professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Achille Mbembe
Managing Director
Jean-Marc Segoun
Chief Operating Officer

Team member

Arlande Joerger Aroukoun
Program Co-Manager
Northern Lab - Gates of Europe
Coline Nelson
Program Co-Manager
Northern Lab - Gates of Europe
Arthur Banga
Program Manager
West Mediterranean Lab
Richard Makon
Program Manager
Central Lab
Adila Deshmukh
Administrative and Financial Manager (interim)
Gloria Mutombo
Najibha Deshmukh
Assistant (interim)


The Labs are the Foundation’s local relays. On a regional scale, they encourage reflection, organize events and training courses, and support initiatives in their areas.