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Transition at Public Agenda

November 10, 2020

Will Friedman (right) with Public Agenda co-founder Dan Yankelovich at our 40th anniversary celebration in 2015.


Dear Public Agenda Community,

This January marks my tenth year as president of Public Agenda, an organization I’ve had the privilege of serving and growing with for a quarter of a century. Along that journey, Public Agenda has offered me countless opportunities, and I’m deeply grateful for them all.

Twenty-five years ago, I started out in the research department, where I assisted with First Things First, an examination of the public’s priorities for education reform and Public Agenda’s first national survey of the American public. I was also fortunate to found the organization’s first public engagement department—which is now undertaking such important projects as Community Voices for Health in six states across the nation and Cycles of Resilience in New York City—as well as our Center for Advances in Public Engagement, the precursor to today’s Yankelovich Stronger Democracy Program.

I’m particularly proud to have co-edited Toward Wiser Public Judgment with Dan Yankelovich. And I’m deeply touched that Dan had such faith in the organization he cofounded with Cyrus Vance that he left Public Agenda a bequest of over $6,000,000 when he passed in 2017. These resources have laid the foundation for the organization’s first endowment, creating a more stable foundation as Public Agenda looks to the future.

My tenure has been marked by relationships and collaborations that will stay with me for a lifetime, especially with my colleagues on staff, whose tremendous work and dedication to democracy has inspired me every day. But like all things we hold close, knowing when to let go is part of the process, which is why at the end of 2020 I am stepping down as President to make room for new leadership to deepen and refresh the organization’s efforts on behalf of a more just, inclusive and effective democracy.

Beginning in January 2021, I will become a Senior Fellow at Public Agenda, consulting on projects and programs close to my heart, including the Hidden Common Ground initiative, as well as advising the organization to ensure a smooth transition as the Board conducts a national search. Once that search is completed, I look forward to supporting the new President and the entire organization in the years ahead and am excited to see what is in store for the enterprise that has meant so much to me. I’m excited as well to pursue new projects, with Public Agenda and independently, that allow me to contribute what I can to the national renewal so sorely needed today.

For now, I want to thank all of you for your efforts to strengthen democracy and forge progress on the many tough challenges we face, and for your partnership in the never-ending work of forming a more perfect union. Good luck to us all!



Nick Obourn, Interim Communications Director


Will Friedman, PhD