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Founded in 2005 by former staffers in the Clinton administration, the organization develops policy ideas, conducts public opinion research and hosts issue briefings. The organization has four policy divisions: Economics, National Security, Clean Energy, and Social Policy & Politics. Third Way develops and advocates for policies that it says represent the "vital center".
Third Way was honored as "2013 North American Think Tank of the Year" by Prospect, a British monthly current affairs magazine, for its "original, influential, and rigorous work on the most pressing challenges facing people, governments, and businesses". In 2012, the first year that Prospect issued a prize for North America, the award went to The Carnegie Endowment. The judges commended Third Way for "making a real impact on debate in the center ground of American politics".
Third Way was founded in 2005 by Jonathan Cowan, Matt Bennett, Jim Kessler, and Nancy Hale in the wake of the 2004 election as a policy, messaging and strategy "idea center" and think tank. The organization was dedicated to understanding the wants, needs and expectations of self-described Moderate left leaning Americans, who comprise 44% of the voting public..
Third Way's President and Economic Program director made the case that progressives needed to reorient themselves and set forth a modern agenda focused on growth and middle class success for the 21st century in an opinion piece published on the Politico website in 2010.
Third Way has four major policy programs: the Economics Program focuses on helping the middle class in America in the midst of growing global competition. The National Security Program aims at issues of security and the US military. Third Way has also undertaken a program on  clean energy intended to influence policy decisions on reducing carbon emissions. In the fall of 2010, it unveiled a new Domestic Policy Program to examine issues including poverty, education and the politics of the center. The Domestic Policy Program also includes Third Way’s Initiative Culture Initiative, which examines how progressives handle contentious culture issues.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider is a Resident Scholar and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Third Way. A few of the staff members for the organization now work in the Obama administration and several former Third Way Honorary Co-Chairs serve in President Obama's cabinet including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
In February 2011, Third Way announced  that Assistant House Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), and U.S. Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) would be joining as Honorary Co-Chairs.
On October 6, 2011, Jonathan Silver, the director of the Department of Energy's loan office, and a figure involved in the Solyndra loan controversy, resigned and become a distinguished visiting fellow at Third Way; Department of Energy officials stated that the decision was unrelated to the controversy.
A Third Way sponsored a report written by William Galston of the Brookings Institution and Elaine Kamarck of Harvard University's Kennedy School entitled Change You Can Believe In Needs a Government You Can Trust. The report analyzed Americans' trust in government and reported it was in serious decline and could present significant challenges to the Obama administration's agenda.
Third Way contributed ideas regarding health reform debate that were eventually enacted into law. The often repeated message that health care reform would deliver "stability and security" to the middle class traces its roots to a series of Third Way reports and memos issued in the spring and summer of 2009. Third Way's work was described as having "really become central to the White House's message". A Third Way op-ed published in Roll Call in late summer 2009 urged progressives, upset by early reports on the contours of the bill, "Don't Pass on the 'Next New Deal'".
Several policy ideas generated by the organization have been developed into congressional legislation. For instance, Third Way developed the policies framed in "Spurring Weatherization Investments in Rural America", which was introduced by Representative Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) as the Rural Energy Savings Program. The legislation was lauded by liberals.
Third Way works with Senate Democratic leadership, including Senator Dick Durbin, to help define policy ideas and strategy. In the wake of the loss of control of the House after the 2010 elections President Obama appointed former Third Way Trustee William Daley to replace Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. This decision was intended to signal to the nation the administration's prioritization of economic growth and a willingness to work with both parties.
Washington Post columnist David S. Broder and National Journal political analyst Charlie Cook devoted columns to Third Way's June 2010 poll on the economy, conducted with the Benenson Strategy Group, suggesting that support from the middle-class for the Progressive agenda might have begun to waver.
The shooting of Third Way's Honorary Co-Chair, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in January 2011 sparked a national conversation about the risks of heated political discourse. Third Way attempted to reconcile the two parties in Washington during the 2011 State of the Union. Breaking away from the 98-year tradition of partisan seating, Third Way successfully pushed for members of opposing parties to sit together at the President’s annual address in 2011 and 2012.
Third Way has been involved in the following policy issues:
1- The economic benefits of green energy. Since 2010, Third Way is lobbying the creation of an alternative clean energy and climate agenda.
2- Deficit reduction. One example: a proposal to cut federal pensions was adopted by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission and the House Republicans’ deficit package. The Grand Bargain - an over-aching tax and budget deal to reduce the deficit by cutting Social Security and Medicaid  is an issue they champion. 
5- Advocated for new trade accords with Korea, Colombia and Panama.