For me the essence of policy advocacy is to identify steps political decision makers can take to deal with a given problem—sometimes by seeking consensus, other times engaging in vigorous debate.

After spending a career in senior roles with many of the policy community's leading philanthropies, think tanks, and advocacy groups, I set up an evaluation consulting practice and took on a new role as a part-time local politician. Recent clients have included the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation, Democracy Fund, Aspen Institute, Andrew Goodman Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York. The findings from my evaluation of Ford Foundation grantee TechCongress were presented in a publicly released August 2018 report. Most recently, my project for the Andrew Goodman Foundation produced a new Vote Everywhere Program Tracker tool to chronicle that program's student voting efforts on more than 60 college campuses. From 2014-2015, I was a consulting program officer for the Hewlett Foundation, helping wind down its $25M Nuclear Security Initiative

Before that I spent many years at the Stanley Foundation bringing together top experts and officials to develop constructive proposals on subjects ranging from the evolution of the G20, to climate change and refugee protection. Along the way I forged partnerships with many of the world's leading think tanks. Previously I worked for a series of organizations in the policy community including Human Rights First, Refugees International, Search for Common Ground, British American Security Information Council (BASIC), Arms Control Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and NYPIRG.

My book on the Republican Party's veer away from workable policy approaches—titled I Call Bullshit: Four Fallacies That Keep Our Politics From Being Reality-Based—was published in August 2016. Two earlier books were co-edited volumes. Together with Michael Schiffer I co-edited Powers and Principles: International Leadership in a Shrinking World (Lexington Books), in which analysts outlined ways pivotal powers could bolster the rules-based international order. Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide (Routledge) is a collection of bipartisan essays co-edited with Derek Chollet and Tod Lindberg. 

On top of "day job" responsibilities, I've been active in my personal capacity—writing articles, blogging, advising political campaigns, and ultimately putting my own name on a ballot. My essays have appeared in Washington QuarterlyForeign Policy, SurvivalPolicy Review, and World Politics Review, as well as op-eds in more than a dozen newspapers. I was a main blogger on Democracy Arsenal and regular contributor to TPMCafé. I served on the foreign policy team for both of President Obama's campaigns and was principal adviser to then-candidate Al Franken from 2005-2009.

My own political career began with my April 2016 election to the Stevens Point City Council and was extended recently with reelection to a third term. To support the Democratic cause here in Wisconsin, I've spearheaded a new Environmental Caucus for the state Party and serve as Caucus chair. Having learned some of the inner workings of the state Party—and gone through the dramatic April 2020 spring election—I collaborated with fellow evaluator Kathleen Sullivan on a piece for TPMCafé that looked at the WisDems' dramatic victory from an evaluator's perspective.

My formal training was in the Harvard Kennedy School's MPA program, on top of a BA in religious studies from Brown University. A lifelong fan of pop music, I published an essay at PopMatters on what The Clash mean to me and was featured several times on the "Top Five" segment of David Dye's World Cafe on NPR. I live in Stevens Point with my wife Susan Bender, a soprano soloist and voice professor—our daughter having flown the coop to Portlandia. When I'm not grappling with problems of policy and politics, I am playing tennis, watching players on the pro tour, or umpiring youth, adult, or high school tournaments.