Our Mission

Breakthrough's mission is to accelerate the transition to a future where all the world's inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, and prosperous lives on an ecologically vibrant planet. The Breakthrough Institute is a paradigm-shifting think tank committed to modernizing environmentalism for the 21st century. Our core values are integrity, imagination, and audacity.

Since its founding in 2003, Breakthrough Institute has been committed to making clean energy cheap to achieve both human development and ecological goals. Photo Credit: The Children At Risk Foundation - CARF

Who We Are

We are progressives who believe in the potential of human development, technology, and evolution to improve human lives and create a beautiful world.

We are researchers, analysts, and writers who reject outmoded orthodoxies on the Left and Right, and are dedicated to new ways of thinking, new political frameworks, and new policy paradigms.

We are the authors of reassessments of progressive assumptions, from "The Death of Environmentalism," which argued for transcending a nature-based politics to "Where Good Technologies Come From," which demonstrates the critical role government has played in the development of technologies from the railroad to the iPhone.

The Breakthrough Institute's groundbreaking reports are cited by everyone from President Obama to the American Enterprise Institute.

We believe that the challenges we face today are of a different kind than those of the past. Transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to a clean energy economy is much more complex than simply limiting pollutants to protect the ozone. Conservation in a place as vast and economically important as the Amazon will necessarily look different than conservation in the relatively small Yosemite Valley.

We are dedicated to bringing new ideas to the table that change the debates over the environment, the economy, and our politics so they better reflect the new realities of the 21st century.

The Breakthrough Institute "has injected a vital strain of realism into an issue far too critical to founder on green dreams." – TIME

What We Believe

We believe that technology and modernization are at the foundation of human progress.

We believe that today’s political dysfunction reflects the exhaustion of older paradigms, not America’s potential to adapt to new circumstances.

We believe the market is a potent force of change, but that long-term government investment is required to accelerate technological progress, economic growth, and environmental quality.

Breakthrough believes that there is a strong role for governments and markets in creating prosperity and environmental quality. The iPhone, today's high-tech cities, and next generation energy sources all depended on long-term government investment in infrastructure, education and innovation.

We believe the new ideas and breakthroughs required to address the challenges of the 21st century take time to develop, change the way people think, and shape the world.

We believe all knowledge is partial, contingent, and subjective, and thus try to bring a ruthlessly critical eye to underlying assumptions, especially our own.

“The pugnacious pair is often bashed for their rhetoric, but the two are genuine in their hawkishness on the climate and their commitment to global equity.” –– The American Prospect 


How We Effect Change

Breakthrough co-founder Michael Shellenberger (center) at Breakthrough Dialogue 2012 with Enkhtuya Oidov (left) and Breakthrough Conservation Development analyst Linus Blomqvist (right).

Breakthrough’s unique and innovative approach is rooted in a radically fresh take on the new challenges of the 21st century. Today’s politics, wedded to outdated ideas and mired in partisan divisions, has failed to adapt. Breakthrough, by contrast, seeks out new ideas, grounded in cutting edge research, that explain how the world has evolved. We craft innovative policy solutions that change national and international debates. We train the next generation of policy experts and analysts, and, through our youth fellowship program, senior fellows network, and annual Breakthrough Dialogue, we build a community of leaders who are up to the big challenges of our time.

Importantly, we aim to shift overarching conceptual paradigms, not only specific policies, because we play the long game. As a result, our day-to-day work includes analyzing policy as well as writing long-form essays that place our research into a larger context that disrupts conventional political fault lines. In short, we advance the ideas and values — integrity, imagination, and audacity — that form a new kind of politics.

Breakthrough Institute is an "organization that advocates putting progressive values to work to solve problems." –– New York Times