Since being founded by Ian Inaba eight years ago, Citizen Engagement Lab has helped 33 startups engage more than 9 million people. Mahendra, who joined the team in 2012 as Director of Strategy, co-founded CEL’s Kairos Fellowship for digital campaigners of color. She also ran the OPEN-US Network, a collaboration initiative (housed at CEL) that convenes leading tech-fueled advocacy groups. She will now take on the Executive Director position from Inaba, who is returning to filmmaking.
Under her new leadership, CEL promises to double down on “supporting early-stage innovation, investing in emerging, diverse leaders, and strengthening networks for learning, mentorship, and seed funding.” This builds on an impressive run of high-impact projects:
- In April, CEL acceleration partner Vote.org was selected for funding by Y-Combinator! CEL helped Vote.org’s founder, Debra Cleaver, transform her volunteer-run passion project into a new nonpartisan powerhouse that uses digital tools to remove barriers to voting. Within three months of partnering with CEL, Vote.org’s vote-by-smartphone project had won a Knight News Challenge. You can read more about the project in this Forbes article.
- CEL Culture Lab founder and director Tracy Van Slyke continues to serve as a thought leader on the intersection of culture and politics. Her recent article “Why I Tell Activists to Watch TV” challenges progressive leaders to use the power of popular culture to engage audiences around their passions and interests. To this end, The Cultural Pulse — a new product of the Culture Lab that was featured at last week’s New Media Ventures Summit — draws from best practices in the media, tech, and advertising industries, and offers a set of tools to help nonprofits use pop culture narratives, hot topics, and audience conversations to expand their reach.
- ClimateTruth.org Action (a C4 project of the CEL Climate Lab) has made climate change an issue in the 2016 presidential election. Early in the presidential primary season, the Climate Truth team recruited Florida residents impacted by rising sea levels to confront candidates on the campaign trail, publicly forcing them to address the issue. They also worked to get 20 Florida mayors to sign a letter asking candidates to respond to climate change; the letter prompted questions about climate in primary debates and resulted in extensive media coverage, including a blistering Newsweek cover story on Marco Rubio’s climate denial.