August 13, 2015


Welcome Matt Leighninger, New Director of Public Engagement

Today we announced the selection of Matt Leighninger as our new Director of Public Engagement. Matt will serve as a Vice President for the organization, as well as the Director of the recently established Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment.

"Matt is at the cutting edge of the public engagement and deliberative democracy movement, nationally and internationally. He is not only a skilled practitioner but also a thought leader in the field," said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. "With Matt on the team, Public Agenda is reinforcing our commitment to transforming the way communities and policymakers collaborate on public problems across the country."

Matt will lead the public engagement team in the development and execution of public engagement projects on a variety of local and national issues. As Director of the Yankelovich Center, he will also contribute to learning and development around public engagement theory, methods, products and services.

Prior to joining Public Agenda, Matt served as the Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC), an alliance of the major organizations and leading scholars working in the field of deliberation and public participation. Over the last twenty years, Matt has worked with public participation efforts in over 100 communities, in 40 states and four Canadian provinces. Matt serves on the boards of, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2USA), The Democracy Imperative and the Participatory Budgeting Project. His books include The Next Form of Democracy (2006) and Public Participation in 21st Century Democracy (2015). Matt also led the development of "Text, Talk, and Act," a new tool that combines online and face-to-face participation as part of President Obama's National Dialogue on Mental Health.

"I'm really excited about this transition," said Matt. "Public Agenda has been one of the leading organizations in the field for a long time. They do a unique blend of work -- from research to engagement -- on a range of important issues. Will and I have known each other for a long time, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to work with him and the rest of Public Agenda team."

Engaging Ideas

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

Why follow-up is critical in engaging members of the public and a prediction for how millennials will use public engagement strategies to reach new members. 

This two-part podcast is about modern school segregation and integration, with reporting from New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones and This American Life's own Chana Joffe-Walt. In the last 8 minutes of the segment, the reporters speak with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the issue. 

(The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Christina E. Whitfield, vice chancellor for research and analysis at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, has designed a "social-utility index" to calculate the social good of degree programs that lead to low-paying jobs that may nevertheless be important to communities.
Good news: not one state reported a statistically significant increase in uninsured. Nationwide, the amount of people going without health insurance dropped from 17.3% in full-year 2013 to 11.7% in the first half of 2015. 

(The Brian Lehrer Show/WYNC)
The Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Maurice Carroll, speaks about a poll which finds that 33% of NYC voters say the quality of life in NYC is "good" or "very good." Be sure to keep an eye out for coverage of our survey of residents in the tri-state area, the first Wadsworth Fund project, in the coming weeks!  

'Sesame Street' to Air First on HBO for Next 5 Seasons
(New York Times)
As reported, the arrangement will increase production of the children's show from 18 to 35 episodes a season and be available for on-demand streaming. 


Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at

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