Our Founding Story
What we do
We train thoughtful leaders everywhere to run for office successfully and govern effectively.
Why we do it
We wish to see American politics rooted in civic engagement and responsive, evidence-based policymaking - the foundation of effective governance. This vision is dependent on who we elect to office and how they will govern. Voters have limited input. Most of the 520,000 elected offices nationwide are not significantly contested. Many good people are interested in pursuing these offices, but most won’t run because they consider themselves unprepared for the race or the job. Those who do run are often not equipped or motivated to advance good governance. We can prepare good candidates with the right training at large scale.
Who we focus on
We design our service for thoughtful leaders. We believe good political leaders are ‘thoughtful’ in two ways: they have a desire to serve others and an ability to think critically. We cannot easily pre-filter for, nor train thoughtfulness. Our trainings, instead, rely on and strengthen these qualities.
We support diverse candidates. Effective governance benefits from reflective government, with leaders who collectively understand the lived experience of the full community they serve.
Where we focus
Of the over half a million seats nationwide, we focus on the 99%+ that are down-ballot: state legislative and municipal seats. These positions have incredible tangible impact on our lives, but never get the love that presidential, congressional, or gubernatorial seats do. This is where the vast majority of first time candidates will start and will anchor their perspective of “how to be a politician” for the rest of their public career. We can most effectively help a candidate establish best practices in their first race; behavior change after a candidate is in office or when pursuing higher office is far harder.
How we do it
To address the size and scope of the challenge, we train candidates online and with blended learning. The Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) movement in higher education has transformed our ability to train a lot of adults efficiently, effectively, and remotely. We are applying the best technologies and practices to the domain of politics, policy, and governance.
We have designed a curriculum focused on the needs of candidates who are focused on the needs of their constituents. There are a few key elements to our approach. We help candidates: address their personal concerns about running, build empathy for their constituents, and communicate with values while governing with evidence. Our curriculum has six series:
- Demystify Your Run: What is the process for running and where do I start? Is running right for me?
- Run With Your Community: How do I authentically and confidently represent both my community and myself? How do I ensure I make decisions consistent with our shared values?
- Get Local on Policy & Governance: How do I get and stay smart on the top policy issues in my state and locality and the authorities that impact them?
- Build Your Case: What is my pitch to voters and how do I communicate it?
- Develop Your Campaign: How do I create and execute a winning campaign strategy? (We redirect candidates to external trainings on topics covered well by others.)
- Prepare to Govern: How do I effectively make progress in office on issues impacting my community?
We personalize the instruction based on locality and elected office sought.
Running for office and governing can be a very rewarding and impactful way for thoughtful leaders to support their communities, but it’s also challenging and won’t be the best means for everyone. We empower prospective candidates to make an informed decision about whether running is right for them and then guide their development of an authentic, localized candidacy.
Our shared values compass
When we develop any content, we use the following fundamental American values as our true north for editorial decisions. We ensure course material aligns with the cause of freedom, with opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and cooperation among all; and supports smart, evidence-based, efficient, effective, responsive, active government.
We use proven adult learning methods to effectively teach our course material, including scaffolding, multimodal instruction, team and peer-based learning, demonstrations, and case studies. Our training is centered on experiential learning (i.e. learning-by-doing), where candidates start a lesson, then apply what they’ve learned in their local community, and then come back and reflect on their experience before the next lesson.
Collaborative development & delivery
We build on and support the work of complementary political, policy, and governance organizations. We develop our trainings in collaboration with subject matter experts, making their knowledge accessible to future political leaders. We then deliver these trainings in collaboration with a diverse collection of candidate recruiters, many of which do not have the capacity to train their full membership on this valuable information. We strive to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our collective efforts.
Process for continual improvement
We believe in good design and have adopted the latest industry methods from Human-Centered Design, Lean Startup, and Agile Development. Our process aims for “product-market fit”: making sure our courses truly solve the pain points of the candidates. We cycle through phases of deep user research, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, evaluating, and improving our service.
Where we are going
Update: Our next steps…
Who we are
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit
In August 2017, we incorporated Empowered To Run as a charitable nonprofit (EIN: 82–2656986). With this status, we are easily able to partner with other 501(c)(3) organizations. Additionally, all donations to us are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
CEO & Executive Director: Dr. Steven Sinha is a policy & political strategist, organizational designer, and civic-tech entrepreneur. Before founding Empowered To Run, Steve rose to be Deputy Coordinator for Knowledge Management and a Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of State, after starting as a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. He is an alum of Clinton ’16 (government innovation policy advisory team) and Obama ’08 (field organizing in California and Colorado). Steve started his career in academia, teaching and researching artificial intelligence at U.C. Berkeley in the Neural Theory of Language group (co-founded by George Lakoff). From this work, he earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science & Business. He also holds a B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University.
VP, Product: Patrick Koppula is a seasoned entrepreneur and an award-winning product developer. In 2016, Patrick ran for California State Assembly after wrapping up a year as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow. Prior to this, he founded and led a media tech company (FFWD), and led product for one of the largest communities of independent musicians (Garage Band). Patrick has been a Visiting Professor at Arizona State University. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Science & Public Policy from Harvard.
VP, Strategy: Benjamin Oaks is an entrepreneurial operations executive with a broad background across many industries and functions. He has been a part of the leadership of rapidly growing companies for the better part of the last 10 years. He founded MuCash, an online payment processor, and lead the non-profit Vehicles for Change both through a period of geographic expansion as well as the launch of their social venture, Full Circle. He bring experience in a diversity of industries over 15 years including: online tech; non-profit; and state policy & politics. He holds an MBA from Cornell and a BA in Astrophysics & Philosophy from Colgate.
Advisors: We are additionally supported by 11 hands-on advisors of diverse backgrounds with expertise in design research, instructional design, behavioral science, business strategy, finance, legal, film making, and more.
Board of Directors
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Help empower thoughtful leaders everywhere to run for office successfully and govern effectively!