Since 2004, Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) has helped nurture a world-wide conversation about technology’s impact on government, politics, media, and democratic societies. Speakers have ranged from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza to Microsoft President Brad Smith, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to new media mogul Arianna Huffington, New York Times columnist Zeynep Tufekci to EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow and cyber security analyst Bruce Schneier.
Meet the team
Danielle Tomson, Director and co-Curator
When not curating Personal Democracy Forum, Danielle is a Ph.D. Student in Communications at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. In her academic work, she primarily studies populism, representation, and political movements in the digital age, but she also can’t help but write about the civic tech community. Her research has taken her to Myanmar, Kosovo, Turkey, Georgia, and around the United States. Danielle was the founding Membership Director of Civic Hall. Before Civic Hall, Danielle cut her technology teeth as a product manager and innovation consultant for non-profits, government, and corporate clients around the world. You can find her writing on The Huffington Post, Civicist, Medium, and a plethora of academic publications. She is a graduate of Yale University and is proud to have been raised on a horse farm in Western Pennsylvania. Find her at @leetomson, though she has muted most social media.
Micah Sifry, Co-founder and Co-Curator
Micah L. Sifry is Co-Founder of Civic Hall. He also curates the annual Personal Democracy Forum, and also is the editor of Civicist, Civic Hall’s news site. From 2006-16 he was a senior adviser to the Sunlight Foundation, which he helped found, and currently serves on the boards of Consumer Reports and the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. He is the author or editor of nine books, most recently Civic Tech in the Global South (co-edited with Tiago Peixoto) (World Bank, 2017); A Lever and a Place to Stand: How Civic Tech Can Move the World (PDM Books, 2015), with Jessica McKenzie; The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet) (OR Books, 2014); and Wikileaks and the Age of the Transparency (OR Books, 2011). In 2012 he taught “The Politics of the Internet” as a visiting lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School. From 1997-2006, he worked closely with Public Campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on comprehensive campaign finance reform, as its senior analyst. Prior to that, Micah was an editor and writer with The Nation magazine for thirteen years. He is the author of Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America(Routledge, 2002), co-author with Nancy Watzman of Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day (John Wiley & Sons, 2004), co-editor of Rebooting America, and co-editor of The Iraq War Reader (Touchstone, 2003) and The Gulf War Reader (Times Books, 1991).
Find him at @mlsif.
Andrew Rasiej, Co-founder and Executive Producer
Andrew Rasiej is a civic and social entrepreneur, technology strategist, and Founder and CEO of Civic Hall. He is also the Founder of Personal Democracy Media, which produces Personal Democracy Forum and other events about intersection of technology and politics. Andrew is the Founder of MOUSE.org, which focuses on 21st century public education; Co-Founder of Mideastwire.com, which translates Arabic and Farsi news and opinion pieces into English; Senior Technology Advisor to the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, DC-based organization, which uses technology to make the government more transparent; and Chairman of the NY Tech Meetup, which is a 50,000-member organization of technologists, venture funders, marketers, representing start up and more mature companies using technology to transform themselves, New York City, and the world. Andrew coined several terms to help describe our expanding and digitally-connected world, including We-Government, Voter-Generated Content, and Videracy. In 2005, Andrew ran a highly visible campaign for NYC Public Advocate on a technology and innovation driven platform to redesign the office as a network, bring low-cost broadband to underserved communities, and open up access to city-controlled public data. He is a graduate of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
Follow him on Twitter at @Rasiej.
Toby Childs, Graduate Intern
School of International and Public Affairs. Prior to grad school, Toby was working on grassroots development programs in East Africa; helping build a public health program from scratch in Rwanda, and working on an education expansion program in Tanzania. Grad school was an opportunity for Toby to switch gears and learn about applying the human centered design approach to working at a larger scale in the public sector and within urban contexts. He has lived in eight different countries on four different continents and has a BA in Art and Philosophy. He can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobychilds/.
Darshana Naraynan, Community Manager
Darshana Narayanan is a scholar, consultant and critical explorer, whose work bridges Neuroscience and Society. Her research on the evolution of human social behavior has been covered by media such as the BBC, National Geographic, Wired, Io9 and NPR. Her most recent article is on Lean Enterprise, co-authored with Agile and Lean aficionado Mariya Breyter. Along with Eldar Shafir—member of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Behavioural Sciences Council—Darshana has taught at Princeton University, on: ‘The Psychology of Decision Making and Judgment’. She previously worked as Head of Research at pymetrics, a Khosla Ventures funded startup, that builds algorithms for personnel recruitment. She currently works on Polis, a conversation tool for breaking open echo chambers. As part of Polis, Darshana works with organizations such as: think tank American Assembly, the Governments of Canada, Taiwan and Singapore, and the movement March On. With collaborators in the g0v-network, she is bringing Taiwan’s cyberphysical systems of participation and governance, to NYC and Toronto. Darshana has a Ph.D. in Psychology & Neuroscience from Princeton University. She grew up amongst the tea gardens of Ooty, India.
Find her at @dznarayanan.