Press Release, Change Collective, Initiatives

Civic Nation Announces Launch of New Community-Based Leadership Initiative with Video from President Barack Obama

The Change Collective will empower emerging leaders to bring people together, bridge divides and solve problems in Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI and Jackson, MS

Washington, DC: Today, Civic Nation released a video message from President Barack Obama launching the organization’s latest initiative, the Change Collective, a new leadership community created to connect, elevate and train local changemakers across the country. The Change Collective’s vision is to reinvent civic life for the 21st century by investing in and supporting the next generation of emerging leaders who are bridging divides and driving change in their communities. Members of the Change Collective will have access to training opportunities, leadership development and a wide network of mentors both locally and nationally.  

Only half of U.S. adults consider themselves civically engaged, and these numbers are even lower for people with low incomes and those who do not have a college degree. The Change Collective will combat this issue by preparing the next generation of local leaders to build a more equitable, welcoming and inclusive democracy.

“It’s a way to bring emerging leaders from different identities and backgrounds together, and help them build relationships and solve problems in their communities,” said President Barack Obama. “Because real change happens one person, one community, one connection at a time. And we all need to learn how to better work with folks who have different backgrounds and beliefs.”

“We do not have to accept political polarization and disconnection as the norm,” said Kalisha Dessources Figures, Senior Fellow at Civic Nation who will lead the new initiative’s work. “By focusing on building bridges and embracing difference as a source of strength, the Change Collective will build a bench of local leaders working to make our communities more durable and better connected.”

The Change Collective will be housed at Civic Nation, a nonpartisan nonprofit with a mission to build a more inclusive and equitable America. The leadership community will launch a pilot program in three cities – Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI and Jackson, MS – and expand to additional locations in the years ahead. Each place-based cohort will include 25 leaders representing a range of identities, backgrounds and ideologies. Participants will receive a series of leadership development trainings to learn how to engage and organize members of their community, public officials and institutions before launching a neighborhood-based civic action project. 

Applications are now open. To learn more about the Change Collective and apply to be a part of the community, visit

To support the growth of the initiative and advise on the curriculum and learning that will anchor programming, the Change Collective has brought together a dynamic 12-person advisory council of leading experts, academics and practitioners. Members include: John Bridgeland, More Perfect, Former Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Xavier de Souza Briggs, Brookings Institution; Alejandra Ceja, Panasonic North America; Awenate Cobbina, Bedrock Manufacturing Company; Ben Davis, the Wend Collective;  Hahrie Han, SNF Agora Institute; Krysta Harden, U.S. Dairy Export Council; Holly Kuzmich, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Former Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute; Michele Jawando, Omidyar Network; Nancy-Ann DeParle, Consonance Capital Partners, Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff; Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation; and Sanjiv Rao, Race Forward.

Watch President Obama’s full video message here. A full transcript of the video is included below.


Our country is changing. But I still believe there is more that unites us than divides us. 

And that’s because I believe in the power of community. 

Our physical communities ​​– from neighborhoods and schools to offices and churches – bring us together.  

And they give us a reason to work together, even when we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything.

That’s why I’m excited to share the launch of the Change Collective – an initiative that will develop, connect and elevate changemakers across the country who are already working to strengthen their communities. 

It’s a way to bring emerging leaders from different identities and backgrounds together, and help them build relationships and solve problems in their communities.

Because real change happens one person, one community, one connection at a time. And the best time to start is right now.