My consulting practice draws on a three-decade career as an advocate on the staff of prominent philanthropies, think tanks, and advocacy groups—plus another seven years as a local elected official. This has given me first-hand experience with all the elements of advocacy tradecraft: designing initiatives, crafting strategy, spotting leverage points, setting objectives, sharpening message, building relationships with policymakers, linking different networks, and facilitating consensus-building. I also did a stint as a grantmaker just before becoming a consultant, spending two years as a Hewlett Foundation program officer responsible for winding down their nuclear security initiative (see below).
The Ford Foundation commissioned Kathleen Sullivan and me for a portfolio review of its immigrant rights grantmaking—which had focused on reforming immigration enforcement. Indeed, harsh enforcement has become so deeply ingrained in the the United States' handling of immigration that it's widely assumed there's no alternative to detention, deportation, and a militarized border. And yet Ford grantees’ efforts helped open many policymakers' eyes to the harms of overly harsh enforcement and spur them to become champions for reform.. With Ford’s support, representatives of directly affected immigrant communities have taken their proper “seats at the table," helping boost the prominence of enforcement issues. READ MORE
On issues from labor rights to voting rights, immigration and fiscal policy, the right wing has pushed narrative framing that has taken hold; skewed politics in their favor; and served as an obstacle for center-left policies that enjoy broad support. According to a self-initiated study conducted together with frequent writing and business partner Kathleen Sullivan, this narrative advantage doesn’t extend to local politics and the decisions of local government. Our "They Said, We Said" paper tests the hypothesis by examining eight contentious issues decided in recent years by local government bodies around the country. The authors offer our findings as the basis for an ongoing conversation with organizers and activists in a position to pursue change in the local government arena—what we call "the close-quarters public square." READ MORE
TechCongress is a San Francisco-based initiative that recruits technology professionals to spend a year on Capitol Hill and help make Congress’ better able to address critical technology policy issues. After selecting and placing the first three classes of Congressional Innovation Fellows, TechCongress Founding Director Travis Moore had questions he wanted to investigate through an evaluation. Mainly he wanted to know what are the keys for fellows to really contribute to the work of the offices hosting them. As TechCongress strives to show Members of Congress the value of technological expertise, naturally it wants to ensure fellows are as helpful to them as possible. The evaluation took an in-depth look at the fellowship experience from the vantage of the fellows as well as the senior staff who supervised them. READ MORE
As a legacy of its namesake, the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) is dedicated to "making young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy." The organization's flagship Vote Everywhere program works in close partnership with higher education institutions around the country to steadily increase student voter turnout. After five years of this collaboration, AGF wanted to revamp its internal systems for monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). With all the great work Vote Everywhere campus teams do on behalf of voting rights, the MEL tools should match that work as closely as possible. READ MORE
As part of my consultancy to help the Hewlett Foundation wind down its Nuclear Security Initiative, I was responsible for commissioning a summative evaluation to gauge the impact of the $25M in grants the Initiative made over its seven-year lifespan. We chose the evaluation firm ORS Impact for the contract and were very impressed with the realism they brought to the assessment of policy change work and the way they clued into the lower-profile forms of progress that make the "big wins" possible—the underside of the proverbial iceberg. READ MORE