December 17, 2015


Letter from Will: Looking Forward to 2016

With this, the final Public Agenda Alert of 2015, I'd like to take a moment to thank you, on behalf of the Public Agenda team, for your continued interest in and support for our work.

There's much we're looking forward to bringing to you in 2016. For starters, we're excited to dive more deeply into the role our work plays in boosting opportunity and addressing inequality. 

I invite you to check out a recent blog post from my colleague Matt Leighninger which previews some of our thinking on how stronger democracy can reduce economic inequality.

And if you missed it, have a look at our recent work exploring New York area residents' views on inequality and opportunity. We also report on the kinds of solutions they might support.

Here are just a few of the things we're looking forward to sharing with you in 2016:
  • In mid-winter, we'll be releasing the Participatory Budgeting Year in Review, a look at the impacts of this innovative democratic process in communities across the nation.
  • Through a partnership with the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center, we'll be working to improve public policy and change the narrative on community college transfer so that more community college students can receive the bachelor's degree they strive for.
  • We'll be launching crucial new research into how everyday people like you and me think about the quality of health care, building on research we released earlier this year on how the public views health care costs. This line of research continues to drive knowledge that can make quality health care affordable and accessible to all who need it.
Co-Founder Dan Yankelovich at center with President Will Friedman and Senior Fellow Jean Johnson.
We're also working on a number of other projects to foster innovation in democratic governance, close education achievement gaps, help communities create economic opportunity and much more.

All of this work furthers our mission of fostering progress on divisive and complex issues. We look forward to sharing what we learn along the way with you, and appreciate all that each of you does to contribute to the public good.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2016, and all the best from the Public Agenda team!


Leveraging the Potential of Trustees in Higher Ed

In case you missed it, we invite you to download our newest report"A Difficult Balance" explores how trustees and presidents of some of our country's most important colleges can better work together to help students get a college degree. 

We interviewed trustees and presidents of four-year comprehensive universities across the country. Comprehensives -- public universities that aren't a state's flagship or major research institutions -- drive the future of our economy. They enroll 69 percent of all students attending four-year public universities and an even larger proportion of the nation's African-American and Hispanic undergraduates.

Our findings suggest that trustees of these universities are well-positioned to help their schools weather the unprecedented challenges that higher education is facing, and they seem eager to do so. Yet they also told us they were uncertain of what role they should play. They worry about overstepping and face serious gaps in trust, skills and knowledge. 

College presidents and administrators, policymakers and trustees themselves all have a role to play in helping trustees reach their potential. Our new report includes suggestions to that end. 

Check out coverage of this report on Inside Higher Ed, Forbes, Education Dive and Politico!

Engaging Ideas

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

(WT Grant Foundation)
Duke University's Linda Burton and Whitney Welsh address questions about poverty, isolation and stymied opportunity in this new report.

Would you be upset if your son or daughter married a member of the opposite political party? Test your implicit bias with this short quiz.

(Community Engagement Learning , UNC School of Government Blog)
Kevin Amirehsani of Engaged Public on why civic engagement isn't just a piece of cake. 

(American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Have a look at the 15 fellows that will be working to promote dialogue within their institutions and communities.

(Democracy Renewal) 
How do community networks and government interact? This blog post looks at how three European cities -- Copenhagen, Rotterdam and Barcelona -- deal with socioeconomic challenges, innovation and fiscal pressures.  


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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