Hope, Frustration and Opportunity: Today’s Nuclear Policy Community

In December 2021, Ploughshares Fund commissioned a survey of the international nuclear policy community in order to better understand the current landscape and to determine areas of opportunity and excitement over the next several years. The survey was conducted by ChangeCraft, a private contractor familiar with the nuclear policy community.
The results paint a picture of a global community of activists, philanthropists, researchers, and others trying to determine where change is possible and how to adapt the nuclear field amid the world’s continual tumult. The survey, which was conducted before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describes a complex picture of hope, frustration, and a desire for a field to adapt, if not to radically reinvent itself.
The survey was completed by 158 respondents from a range of sectors, including advocacy, research, media, and more. Nearly half of respondents were millennials and the majority identified as women. 86% of respondents were based in the US, 12% in Europe, and 2% in Asia. 76% of respondents identified as White/Caucasian, with 11% identifying as Asian and smaller proportions (under 6% each) identifying as members of other races/ethnicities. No respondents identified as Indigenous or Aboriginal.
The report contains data on numerous issues, but some of the topline findings include:

  • Two-thirds of respondents identify declining funding as the top challenge facing the field. Other leading challenges identified by respondents were: (1) fragmentation and competition; (2) lack of a mass constituency for nuclear arms control and disarmament; and (3) stasis and risk aversion.
  • When asked to consider the next five years, respondents were most excited by the following areas: challenging the status quo with longer-term, more systemic thinking (71% of respondents); tying nuclear disarmament to other social issues (46%); and building and sustaining diversity in the field (44%).
  • 86% of respondents state that recent diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have improved their organizations’ practices. 80% of respondents see DEI as the area with the most potential for change over the next 3-5 years.
  • The top five areas where respondents identified energy for collaboration in the community were: (1) Cultivating intersectional collaborations, particularly the climate/nuclear nexus; (2) Building a grassroots movement to broaden the appeal of disarmament; (3) Enacting a field-wide communication initiative to change the public narrative about nuclear weapons; (4) Supporting emerging leaders through training, rotational fellowships, or other means of capacity-building; and (5) Reconceptualizing the community’s frameworks and tactics to develop a long-term advocacy strategy.

The report also highlights that these and other findings sometimes vary according to demographic identification, geographic location, professional position, and other factors. 
At Ploughshares Fund, we are using the survey data to inform investment decisions made under our new grantmaking strategy. That strategy includes specific funding areas dedicated to strengthening the field, building new partnerships, fostering transformational thinking, and supporting near-term steps to reduce nuclear risks. We regard these activities as essential for navigating a volatile moment and building community power over the long term.
Links to the full survey report and an executive summary are available below. We encourage everyone—donors, nuclear NGOs, the interested public—to read through the findings and share their thoughts. With your help, together we can meet this moment and address rising nuclear risks.

Executive Summary: Ploughshares Nuclear Field Survey – Executive Summary

Full Report: Ploughshares Nuclear Field Summary Report