Opportunity Is Calling

Our society has shifted fundamentally, rendering the previous path to success obsolete. The unwritten social contract is broken, and security is gone.

To get ahead in the new America, everyone needs to be prepared to pursue multiple paths toward upward mobility. Everyone must answer opportunity’s call.

See What ThinkShift Is All About


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Opportunity isn’t what it used to be.

Opportunity isn’t shallow. It doesn’t play favorites or bet on the front-runner. Opportunity roots for everyone. Every class, county, and color. First, second, and third shift. Underdogs and overachievers. The young and the not so young. Ivy Leaguers and high school dropouts. All of us. And when we’re stuck and held hostage by fear, it’s opportunity that begs us to break out of our comfort zones, to get back up, and to be more.

But opportunity isn’t what it used to be. Hard work and determination alone no longer put our goals within reach. We’re not promised the same certain victories some workers of this country once were.

We need to look change in the eye and believe we’ll come out on the other side. Better. Stronger. Smarter. We need to redefine this nation's wild eyes and hungry hearts. To rally together and feed the fire that’s in each of us. Let’s rebuild the land of opportunity and give a piece of it to everyone. We can — and we will — ThinkShift.

A dream means nothing if we can’t forge a path toward its future reality

The New Path to Success

There was once a compact we could all live by: loyalty and effort, for security and upward mobility. A dream we could share, one that would endure for generations to come. But this compact is no longer what it once was — and we can all feel it.

From the millennials looking to launch but who can’t find traction, to the baby boomers needing to reinvent themselves in the wake of job losses. From families continuing to slip down the economic ladder all the way to organizations — big and small — left on shaky footing, struggling to engage customers and employees alike, struggling to stay relevant.

At ThinkShift, we know what’s at risk is belief in the American Dream itself. We are losing our sense of common purpose — something we all believe that draws us together as a nation. We know that small solutions won’t solve a challenge this big. It will require transformational solutions. It will require a national ThinkShift.

Reignite the American Dream

New paths to the American Dream will take a different kind of preparedness for everyone. To gain new confidence about what is ahead, we all need to be able to develop higher in-demand skills, more robust networks, and the adaptive mindsets required to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Businesses must reimagine their role in cultivating a stronger workforce and, ultimately, in creating value both for businesses and the broader economy — in creating greater impact for our future.

ThinkShift is reigniting the American Dream by creating stronger ties between people, companies and organizations that can prepare and accelerate access to 21st century opportunity.
Our mission is to promote upward mobility, economic security, and personal fulfillment.

A New Approach

We created ThinkShift to be a catalyst, bringing together individuals and organizations from all sectors to rewrite our national narrative and reignite the American Dream.

We do so by researching, creating, and sharing best-in-class insights, content, and learning experiences for individuals and industry professionals to maximize their opportunities and impact.

We work from all sides of the social compact to create a more robust national talent pipeline. This pipeline forms the basis for increased upward mobility and restored economic security, as well as thriving regional communities and greater global competitiveness.

Nation
How we inspire and engage.

An online platform sharing a transformative vision for our lives, for others, and for the nation.

Institute
How we investigate and reimagine.

A non-traditional, transdisciplinary insight institute to break the current frame of how we understand challenges, disrupt the status quo, and point the way forward at a root cause level.

Solution Tank
How we create and innovate.

A network that catalyzes growth by crowdsourcing solutions and developing strategies from national partners that democratize exposure and access to 21st century opportunity.


THINKSHIFT TEAM

Natalia Peart
Executive Director, ThinkShift
Chief Operating Officer of the DeBruce Foundation
Natalia Peart
Executive Director, ThinkShift
Chief Operating Officer of the DeBruce Foundation

Natalia brings vision and leadership to ThinkShift. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the private and non-profit sectors as a clinical psychologist, a leadership and performance executive for national organizations such as Gallup and The Corporate Executive Board, and most recently as the CEO of the Women’s Center for Advancement (formerly YWCA of Omaha). Through her varied experiences, she has developed a deep expertise in change management by helping individuals and organizations take new strategic directions and position themselves for success.

“As Albert Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’”
Elissa Ashwood
Founding Director
Elissa Ashwood
Founding Director

Elissa brings to ThinkShift her skill at giving clients the confidence to make bold decisions for a happier future with a mix of business acumen and heartfelt encouragement. Her experience as a VP of Finance at Citibank, Director of Executive Leadership Programs at American Express, McKinsey & Co management consultant, software company CEO and author of Calendaring Happiness and Managing Motivation make her a trusted advisor to some of the highest performing leaders in the world. As a cancer survivor she has a particular passion for helping people find a sense of security and happiness even in uncertain times.

"Sometimes you need to write a happier ending. ThinkShift hands you the pen and paper."
Burt Barnow
Founding Director
Burt Barnow
Founding Director

Burt is a labor economist and program evaluation specialist seeking to help individuals succeed in the modern economy. Concurrently a faculty member at the George Washington University, his insights are rooted in research and evaluation experiences over his career, which also included positions at Johns Hopkins University, the Lewin Group, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Burt received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“After spending most of my career doing or managing research at universities and in the federal government, I liked the idea of working somewhere where the emphasis would be on effecting change.”
Andrew Clarkwest
Founding Director
Andrew Clarkwest
Founding Director

Andrew is a student and practitioner of how people develop the resources needed for success in life. He is driven to create a world where all individuals feel like they have both a stake in society and a contribution to make to it. During seven years at Mathematica Policy Research, and earlier positions at the University of Michigan and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, his work focused on ways to create healthier home environments and better prepare individuals for advancement in the workforce. He holds a doctorate in sociology and social policy from Harvard University.

“I was drawn to ThinkShift for the opportunity to turn ‘think’ into ‘do’ in regards to creating equality of opportunity and full participation.”
Steven Honegger
Founding Director
Steven Honegger
Founding Director

Steve is passionate about using social design innovation and outside-the-box thinking to reimagine education and learning. Drawing from policy and evaluation expertise across the learning spectrum – from K-12 education policy and reform and higher education policy to innovative strategies for community college completion and workforce, he brings an understanding of how an array of knowledge and experience can be combined and recombined to access and create opportunity. He holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois and bachelor’s degree in economics and French from Illinois Wesleyan University.

“Everyone at ThinkShift came here with a passion and fire to make a positive change. We continuously push to think beyond the problems and find bold solutions to close the opportunity gap.”
Leigh Anne Taylor Knight
Founding Director
Leigh Anne Taylor Knight
Founding Director

Leigh Anne engages partnerships to redefine the path to preparedness in the 21st Century and ensure democratized access to upward mobility across the lifespan. She is driven to lead the leveraging of resources across sectors for innovative learning, rigorous research and community collaboration in order to improve economic development and the quality of life. A teacher at heart, she has also served as a K-12 assistant superintendent, advised learning institutions across the nation and led a bi-state consortium that provides powerful tools for data-driven educational research to inform practice and policy. She holds graduate and advanced degrees in educational leadership and policy from the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas.

“I value working across a variety of sectors to build consensus, synthesize information and crystalize actions, paying special attention to inclusion of diverse views.”
Ben Mook
Digital Content Writer
Ben Mook
Digital Content Writer

Ben is a UX designer with a background in journalism, content strategy and production. As a journalist, Ben has written for the Associated Press, The Daily Record (Baltimore), the Boston Herald and The Maryland Coast Dispatch. Ben received 17 journalism awards from state, regional and national organizations in his career. He received his master’s in digital journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.

“I agree with Eric Hoffer, ‘In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.’”
Austin Nichols
Founding Director
Austin Nichols
Founding Director

Austin is an innovator, wide-ranging economist and expert methodologist. Over the last decade at the Urban Institute, his research focused on economic mobility and the impacts of education, healthcare, and social insurance. He has studied disability, poverty, K-12 education, minimum wages, and Promise Neighborhoods. Austin received his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, and holds a master’s in public policy from Harvard University.

“We are not simply aiming to make a difference. We are aiming to eradicate the opportunity gap.”
Lauren Parks
Director of Special Projects and Initiatives
Lauren Parks
Director of Special Projects and Initiatives

Lauren’s experience in digital strategy and communication goes back nearly a decade. She has worked with nonprofits like Oceana, Project HEAL and the World Food Program USA. Additionally, Lauren worked on two Presidential campaigns helping to provide digital strategy and operational expertise. Lauren has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked as a producer and reporter at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.

​"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." -R. Buckminster Fuller​
Argun Saatcioglu
Founding Director
Argun Saatcioglu
Founding Director

As a sociologist of education, Argun promotes holistic learning strategies that address the entire ecology of human development and wellbeing. Concurrently teaching at the University of Kansas, his research focuses on social class and racial/ethnic inequality in K-12 education, school board governance, and organizational responses to reform pressures in the field of education. He received his doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in organizational behavior, specializing in sociology of organizations and education.

“I joined this team to help restore the American Dream for everyone in this country, especially low income and historically underserved groups.”
Robin Smith
Founding Director
Robin Smith
Founding Director

Robin is passionate about decoupling the link between geography and opportunity for individuals. Her conviction reflects twenty-five years as a researcher with the Urban Institute focused on housing and community development including co-creating a program to understand how neighborhoods influence youth transitions to adulthood. Robin holds a master’s of public administration degree from George Mason University.

“ThinkShift empowers me to move from critique to create; beyond defining problems to solving them. I’m inspired to act on bold, innovative solutions not bounded by the status quo, established interests, or existing efforts.”
Charles West
Founding Director
Charles West
Founding Director

Charles designs and implements strategies, programs and tactics to improve the success of entrepreneurs. Previously he served as Chief Operating Officer, Managing Consultant and Coach of the UEP, a Kauffman Foundation initiative; President of Dynamic Functions Consulting Group and First Harlem Management Corporation; President of NDI, a franchise acquisition and development firm; and was a member of the faculty of Baruch College of the City University of New York. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College, MBA from Atlanta University and doctorate from The Union Institute and University.

“ThinkShift offers the opportunity not only to dream, but to turn dreams into reality. As a result, communities all over the nation can benefit by leveraging untapped resources and the US could become more globally competitive.”
Christine Whelan
Lead Human Ecologist for ThinkShift Institute
Christine Whelan
Lead Human Ecologist for ThinkShift Institute

Christine researches, teaches and writes about what works and what doesn’t in the world of personal improvement. For more than 15 years, Christine has translated the best of behavior change research into actionable advice for us all. She is a clinical professor in the Consumer Science department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and directs the Money, Relationship & Equality Initiative, where she helps couples balance finance and romance through the life course. She is the best-selling author of four books, including The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life, and is a frequent contributor to national op-ed pages, magazines, TV and radio. Christine earned her masters and doctorate from the University of Oxford in Economic and Social History, and an undergraduate degree in Politics from Princeton University.

"My personal motto is ’Not for School but for Life We Learn.’ ThinkShift’s bold mandate - to democratize the skills necessary for modern economic success - is the perfect expression of Seneca’s call to action.”
Daryl Williams
Founding Director
Daryl Williams
Founding Director

Daryl is passionate about economic development, innovation, and entrepreneurship. His work includes designing innovative economic and entrepreneurial platforms. Daryl spent the previous 15 years as the Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP) and Director of Research and Policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. He holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Kansas.

“At ThinkShift, we believe the impossible is possible. We think of strategies and solutions from the point of view of the end user. I believe this is the path to success.”
Darren Woodruff
Founding Director
Darren Woodruff
Founding Director

Darren works on a variety of projects related to expanding learning opportunities and using education as a platform for success in life. Past leadership roles at the American Institutes for Research and Comer School Development Program have focused on the intersection of culture, context, educational practice, and systemic achievement and opportunity gaps. Darren has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication from Stanford University, a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, and a doctorate in educational psychology from Howard University.

“My career path has always centered on efforts to increase educational equity and opportunity for all learners, no matter what their racial, social, or economic circumstances. ThinkShift allows me to do this work on a national level.”

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ThinkShift is an initiative of the DeBruce Foundation.

Washington, D.C. Office

1899 L Street, NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Email: info@wethinkshift.org
Kansas City Office

4520 Main Street
15th Floor
Kansas City, MO 64111