Laurenellen McCann was the director of New America DC, a collaborative research program exploring whether and how national organizations can support existing community activity. This initiative, launched in May 2016, challenges traditional models of national-to-local engagement by showing how public policy institutions can work with (not for) communities as they define and pursue their priorities.
A prominent social theorist, educator, and organizer, McCann has worked on civic engagement and innovation in policy and practice for just shy of a decade. In 2014, she started the movement to bring community organizing practices into public interest technology under the banner, “build with, not for.” In 2013, TIME Magazine named her one of 30 folks under 30 changing the world.
Prior to New America DC, McCann was a Civic Innovation Fellow at the Open Technology Institute, a consultant with the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a crackerjack NPR reporter, and the founding director of the Sunlight Foundation’s state and local team, where she co-authored Sunlight’s open data guidance and helped dozens of states and cities write their first open data policies. She also directed TransparencyCamp, one of the largest grassroots events for government accountability in the world.
McCann is the author of Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech (2015) and a contributor to the (Re)Building Technology zine. She sits on the board of directors for Exhale Pro-Voice and the DC Funk Parade, and is the lead artist of The Curious Citizens Project, a DC-based civic arts collective. She holds a bachelor’s in government from Wesleyan University, also uses they/them, and is the co-parent of a 15-ft long cardboard velociraptor. (Long story.)