Next100, a Startup Think Tank Built for a New Generation of Policy Leaders, Launches a Second 2-Year Cohort Cycle – Next100
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Next100, a Startup Think Tank Built for a New Generation of Policy Leaders, Launches a Second 2-Year Cohort Cycle

A first-of-its-kind organization launched in 2019, Next100 has successfully reimagined what a modern-day think tank can and should look like.

Next100, a startup think tank launched in 2019 for a new generation of progressive policy leaders, today announced that it will continue with a second, two-year cycle, opening up applications for a new cohort of diverse “Policy Entrepreneurs.” Seeded by the 101-year-old Century Foundation, Next100 was built with a simple yet bold mission: policy by those with the most at stake, for those with the most at stake.

In just two short years, Next100 has shown that a different type of think tank is not only possible, but is both needed and capable of impact. The second cohort will continue Next100’s work to change not only what policies get made, but who is making them and how they are made and implemented. The incoming team will prioritize proximity to and engagement with communities on the ground, those who are most impacted by policy choices; develop new policy ideas by working with these communities; deploy new and outside-the-box approaches to advocating for change; and intentionally focus on developing the skills and talent of a new, diverse generation of policy leaders, in a way that government and the traditional policy sector have not.

“Over the last year, it’s become crystal clear that our policy choices do not affect all of us equally. How we make policy, and who makes it, is a big reason why deep and long standing inequities exist,” said Next100 executive director Emma Vadehra and former chief of staff for U.S. Secretaries of Education John B. King Jr. and Arne Duncan. “Next100 was created to challenge the conventional wisdom around who can and should be a policy expert. With this new cohort, we are aiming to ensure that post-COVID-19 policies are informed by those who have the most at stake in our recovery.”

Next100 will provide a new set of Policy Entrepreneurs full-time, salaried positions with benefits for two years, running from September 2021 to August 2023, based in New York City. Each Policy Entrepreneur will focus on a specific policy area they identify—on topics such as education, criminal justice, immigration, or at the intersection of one or more of these areas.

The new cohort will build on the inaugural cohort’s success, working with partners and communities to develop the policy and research projects that they think will drive needed policy change for their communities. Projects from past Next100 Policy Entrepreneurs have blended personal and policy experience to advance issues such as how state policies can better address the needs of undocumented and mixed status families, why international students are critical to our economy and local communities, and what policy solutions can best address the needs of children of incarcerated parents. Eschewing traditional academic briefing papers, Next100ers have erected public art murals across Brooklyn to educate and engage impacted communities on the collateral consequences of having a criminal record.

Next100 was developed in 2019 as an independent project of The Century Foundation (TCF), a leading progressive think tank that has provided a platform for emerging thinkers and their ideas for change for over 100 years. The Next100 team will have access to TCF’s network of experts, and receive mentorship, professional development, and training.

“Over the last two years, TCF has benefited from the wisdom, ambition, and fresh perspectives that the Next100 team embodies,” said Mark Zuckerman, TCF president and former deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Obama administration. “Next100 has proven that investments in diverse expertise and supporting emerging policy leaders more than pays off. I’m so proud of the incredible impact the inaugural cohort has had and am looking forward to welcoming a new group of dynamic leaders.”

“The Century Foundation has a long tradition of investing in emerging, dynamic progressive leaders—something we’ve taken to the next level with Next100,” said Bradley Abelow, chair of TCF’s board of trustees. “TCF’s board is proud to support a second cohort of Next100 Policy Entrepreneurs as they push for much-needed policy change in new and innovative ways.”

“Next100 is unique in trusting Policy Entrepreneurs with the autonomy to do the work that we find meaningful and necessary for our communities, while also providing the support and the probing to make that work rigorous and valuable,” said Rosario Quiroz Villarreal, one of Next100’s inaugural Policy Entrepreneurs. “The consistent opportunity to discuss, collaborate, and learn from colleagues across issue areas is exactly what’s needed to break down silos, build solidarity, and make policy more inclusive across the board.”

Applications launched today, and will remain open through May 31, 2021. Individuals interested in learning more about the program and how to apply should visit here.

Statements of Support for Next100

“Next100 is at the forefront of an historic shift in progressive policy making,” said John B. King Jr., President and CEO of Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education. “Next100’s work reflects the reality that inequality and injustice are deeply interconnected across issue areas—and that to solve systemic challenges, we need systemic solutions. They model what an effective policy organization should look like, conducting research that is deeply informed by the experiences and perspectives of affected communities and pursuing policy change through all the available levers.”

“I got into politics because of policy—the power of policy to make real, meaningful change,” said Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, CA, and special adviser for economic mobility and opportunity for governor Gavin Newsom. “But too often, we just debate the same old ideas. We need more bold, progressive ideas, driven by the communities impacted by policy. Next100 is helping to fill this gap, uplifting new, bold progressive thinkers who do the work in new ways, inspiring all of us to aim higher and push harder for lasting change.”

“Time and again, we see the next generation leading the fight for a better collective future. From Ferguson to Parkland, it has been young people who have stood up, taken risks, and worked together to demand change,” said Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education and current managing director at Emerson Collective and Founder of Chicago CRED. “Next100’s Policy Entrepreneurs are bringing this same approach to the policy space, where it is so sorely needed. They’ve proven that when people with the most at stake are driving change, the result is better policy and greater impact.”

“In less than two years, Next100 is putting real policy wins on the board that are making people’s lives better” said Max Lubin, CEO of Rise, a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on college affordability and youth civic participation. “This isn’t just an organization that is publishing traditional white papers. Next100 is powered by the next generation of Policy Entrepreneurs who have redefined what a think tank can and should look like.”

“Next100 is filling a glaring gap in the policy ecosystem: focusing not just on what needs to change, but on the who and how policy gets made,” said Samantha Tweedy, Chief Partnerships and Impact Officer at Robin Hood Foundation. “The best policies—the solutions that truly stick—are those rooted in the expertise of leaders who have been most impacted by the problems we seek to solve. A lot of organizations talk about centering underrepresented and marginalized voices; Next100 actually walks the walk.”

“In both policymaking and politics, there are immense structural barriers that exclude diverse and underrepresented individuals from having a say in the people and policies that govern them,” said Lauren Baer, managing partner at Arena, an organization supporting the next generation of candidates and campaign staff. “Next100 is tackling these barriers head-on, showing that investing in and developing untapped talent results in better, more equitable, and more responsive public policy and political leaders.”

“As a scholar-activist, being at Next100 has been tremendous,” said Next100 inaugural Policy Entrepreneur Phela Townsend. “It gave me the space to not only think about the problems that today’s workers face, but to bring to bear the research and perspectives of those on the ground who are developing solutions. Our work at Next100 is about centering the needs and voices of those who are most often left out of the progressive policy change process, but whose involvement in driving real systemic change is essential. Next100 has taught me that effective policy is proximate policy—policy that centers the lived experiences of those most impacted by the issues.”

About the Author

Emma Vadehra Changing the Game

Emma Vadehra is the executive director of Next100. She previously served as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education under Secretaries Arne Duncan and John B. King, Jr. and as senior education counsel for the late senator Edward M. Kennedy. She is an education policy wonk, an advocate for progressive policy change, and a believer in the next generation.

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