May 31, 2017


Renewing Democracy and Reinventing Opportunity

At Public Agenda, we are focusing a lot of our energy these days on two intertwined themes that we call Renewing Democracy and Reinventing Opportunity. The first focuses on creating the conditions for wiser public judgment and more meaningful public participation in public life; the second on strengthening the impacts of initiatives that expand economic opportunity and security.

There are many challenges packed within these twin themes, from the profound mistrust undermining the relationship between communities and institutions, to the disappearance of middle class jobs, to increasingly unaffordable health care and housing. But, if there's one issue that speaks most powerfully to both dimensions of the opportunity and democracy challenge, it is public education. And we're doing all we can to help ensure that every American can gain the education they need to succeed and contribute within our economic and civic life. 

To that end, you'll soon see some of the projects we've been working on come to fruition. You'll hear from "new traditional students" in videos we'll release in the next few days on social media which tell their stories of pursuing college later in life. This is part of a project to understand how the public views issues in higher education and, specifically, some of the obstacles that adults who are looking to go to or return to college face. We'll release a full report on research with this group in the fall.

Next month, in partnership with the Spencer Foundation, we'll introduce new resources designed to enhance collaboration among teachers with the end goal of greater student achievement.
Meanwhile, we continue our ongoing work in support of community college student success, better transfer policies in states across the country, competency-based education reform, and numerous initiatives to improve community engagement in K-12 and higher education.

We encourage you to share the following resources with practitioners in the field of education and anyone who wishes to learn more about what can be done to strengthen opportunity and democracy through improvements to our K-12 and higher education systems. 


Will's headshot  

Will Friedman

New from Public Agenda

An op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, which described what buying health care like a car would really look like, mentioned our recent survey, as did a blog post in Health Affairs co-authored by our Program Officer at New York State Health, Amy Shefrin. 


Still Searching: How People Use Health Care Price Information in the United States
Half of Americans have tried to find price information before getting care, but obstacles remain to helping them find the information that can help them save money. This research report is based on a nationally representative survey conducted in conjunction with representative surveys in four states: Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Texas.

The Fix We're In: What Americans Have to Say About Opportunity, Inequality and the System They Feel Is Failing Them
Read about focus groups we held with folks from small and large cities, including San Diego, Cincinnati, the greater metro area of New York and numerous points in between.

Success Is What Counts: A Community College Guide to Community Engagement & Strategic Partnerships
This guide outlines principles of effective engagement and provides tools and resources to support effective broad-based community engagement practices. 

From the Blog

In a time when Americans are taking on more of their healthcare costs, there has been an increased effort from insurers, state governments, employers, and others to make price information more transparent and publicly available. However, there are some questions that must be answered: Will looking for information help people save money?

While the health care consumer is increasingly seeking price information prior to seeking care, the industry lags behind in the provision of that information. Our friend, Parie Garg, Ph.D. of Oliver Wyman, shares in this guest blog post findings from her research on health care price information included in her report "Right Place Right Time." Parie offers insight into why the health care industry is not taking steps to provide people with better cost information at the right place and at the right time.
Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. Las week we read about political donations and how schools can engage their students in democracy. New research was released on a teacher's role in collaboration, as well as a report on how states manage their federal higher education partnerships, and a new survey with healthcare executives that found they expect value-based care to disrupt the industry more than science.


Public Agenda helps build a democracy that works for everyone. By elevating a diversity of voices, forging common ground, and improving dialogue and collaboration among leaders and communities, Public Agenda fuels progress on critical issues, including education, health care and community engagement. Founded in 1975, Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in New York City. Find Public Agenda online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.

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