I'm Full Time at The Kettering Foundation

I’m delighted to report that, as of February 1, 2013 I’ll be a full-time staff member of the Kettering Foundation, a research foundation that studies democracy. I have had a relationship with the Foundation since 1998, and have been an Associate of theirs since 2005.

As a consequence of this, I am shutting down my firm, The Mannakee Circle Group. I’ve had wonderful clients over these years since 2003 when I struck out on my own – not only including Kettering but United Way Worldwide, The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, the Case Foundation, the Omidyar Network, Everyday Democracy, the Northwest Area Foundation, the Darden School of Business and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership both at the University of Virginia, and more.

It’s with glad heart yet with a certain amount of wistfulness that I say “farewell” to these close friends.

I will remain an active participant in the dialogue and deliberation community, and I look forward to continuing my relationships with individuals and organizations throughout this field.

Here’s the bio that they are posting at their site (won’t be live until 2/1), which gives a sense of my duties:

Photo by Melinda Gilmore
Photo by Melinda Gilmore

Brad Rourke is a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. His work includes studies of naming and framing issues in public terms and how people make decisions and work together on shared challenges in communities. Rourke is executive editor of the National Issues Forums issue books as well as other issue books produced for public deliberation.

Rourke has written and cowritten a number of articles and op-ed pieces, appearing in print publications such as The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Foundation News and Commentary, Campaigns & Elections, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He contributed a chapter on the ethics of citizenship to Shades of Gray (Brookings Institution, 2002). He has spoken at the National Press Club, the Brookings Institution, and the Chautauqua Institution. He is listed in Who’s Who in America.

Rourke has been a Kettering Associate since 2005. Prior to joining the foundation, Rourke was president of the Mannakee Circle Group, a public issues firm with clients from a cross section of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He was founder and publisher of Rockville Central, a hyperlocal news source he began in June 2007 that became the second most-read local blog in Maryland. He helped design and regularly participated as a lecturer in the bipartisan candidate training program of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Rourke was senior project manager and then director of external initiatives at The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and vice president for public policy at the Institute for Global Ethics. He has served on the staffs of then-controller of California Gray Davis and Congresswoman Jane Harman and as deputy California campaign manager for the National Health Care Campaign.

Rourke received his BA in comparative literature from UC Berkeley.

Latest Work: New Report For United Way Worldwide

I am delighted to announce the release a new report I co-authored for United Way Worldwide with my friend and colleague Mike Wood at UWW.

From my announcement at the Mannakee Circle Group site:

Last week at a national conference held in Nashville, TN, United Way Worldwide released its latest report, Voices for the Common Good: The World Speaks Out on Opportunity.

This report is based on more than 120 community conversations in a dozen countries. In these conversations, people from all walks of life talked about their aspirations for and challenges facing their communities, along with what it would take form them to see real progress in the areas central to a good life – education, income, and health.

Mannakee Circle Group president Brad Rourke reviewed notes and transcripts from the conversations and, with United Way vice president for field engagement Mike Wood, wrote the core elements of the report.

I appreciate the chance to work on this terrific project!

 

A New Issue Guide: Immigration in America. How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

This issue guide, authored by my good friend and colleague Scott London, is the latest in the Kettering Foundation issue book library of which I am executive editor.

Immigration In America: How Do We Fix A System In Crisis?

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

From the issue guide:

Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

Most Americans agree that our immigration system needs an overhaul. Too many immigrants slip across our borders undetected and too many are here on expired temporary visas. Backlogs and bureaucracy prevent high-skilled foreign workers from getting the permits they need and hinder family members from being reunited with their loved ones in the United States.

Tackling the immigration issue requires that we take a fresh look at it and get beyond the polarized debates that too often divide the country rather than bringing it together. Our challenge today is to build a system that reflects our essential values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. This issue guide explores three different options for doing that.

Option One: Welcome New Arrivals

America is a nation of immigrants, a people welded from many nations and races, bound together by a common vision of opportunity and freedom. That diversity has always been the backbone of America’s strength. A 21st -century immigration system must reflect these characteristic values along with a humanitarian commitment to refuges and those seeking freedom from persecution.

Option Two: Protect Our Borders

Some of America’s most serious social and economic problems are exacerbated by the influx of unauthorized immigrants. By failing to control illegal immigration, we’ve undermined our national security, stiffened competition for scarce jobs, and strained the public purse. This option argues for tighter control of our borders, tougher enforcement of our immigration laws, and stricter limits on the number of immigrants legally accepted into the country.

Option Three: Promote Economic Prosperity

Protecting American jobs while at the same time increasing economic competitiveness requires a multi-faceted immigration strategy, one that acknowledges the important contributions made by high-and low-skilled immigrants alike, but does not depress the wages of disadvantaged American workers or drain our public resources, especially during economic hard times.

Get the full issue guide here at the NIFI website.

A New Issue Guide: A Nation In Debt. How Do We Pay The Bills?

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: A Nation In Debt: How Do We Pay The Bills? This issue guide, authored by my good friends and colleagues Tony Wharton and Noelle McAfee, is the latest in the issue book library of which I am Executive Editor.

Click to download from the NIFI website

We worked very hard getting this guide finished — researching, writing, testing and re-testing. I am really proud of it.

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

The following is from the introduction to A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?

It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire-even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now – We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt.  If this generation doesn’t make needed sacrifices, we’re simply passing the burden to the next generation. It’s time to face this urgent problem.  We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances – We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend.  Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole.  Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First – We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education.  Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run.  Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.

United Way Releases National Report On Education

I am proud to let you know about a new report released today by United Way Worldwide at an important Town Hall event in DC where United Way announced its pledge to generate 1,000,000 new volunteers in mentoring and tutoring for education. (United Way’s pledge is a great example of the level of educational leadership I wish we could see more of now a days.) I was fortunate enough to be asked to write and do the chief research and focus group work for the report.

I’ve posted an announcement of the report at my company’s site, the Mannakee Circle Group.  Here is the piece I posted there:

Soledad O’Brien talks to Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha at the Town Hall

Today at a National Town Hall event at Trinity Washington University moderated by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and featuring Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Corporation for National and Community Service head Patrick Corvington, and White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody BarnesUnited Way Worldwide releasedVoices For The Common Good: America Speaks Out On Education.

Mannakee Circle Group president Brad Rourke conducted focus group research, reviewed notes from the field, and did the principal writing for this report. (Available here.)

The national report is the result of extensive work by United Way listening to community members talk about their aspirations and concerns when it comes to their communities and education. It is based on more than 150 community conversations with thousands of participants, held by local United Ways in 17 cities — along with six focus groups in Billings, MT; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; New York City, NY; and Washington, DC.

Key findings in the report include:

    • When you improve schools, you improve communities — and vice versa
    • People feel disconnected from schools
    • Instilling values is just as important to people as teaching academics
    • We’ve reached a turning point in education
    • People want to work together but aren’t sure what to do

The community conversations were conducted using a framework developed by my friend and colleague Rich Harwood. Special thanks to another good friend and colleague, Mike Wood, vice president of field engagement at United Way, for bringing me in to this project.

For more about the report, visit United Way.

Click for Full Report (pdf)