Disruptive Innovation

in the Civic Sphere

Civic Ventures

WHO WE ARE

Civic Ventures is a small group of political troublemakers devoted to ideas, policies, and actions that catalyze significant social change. We are serial innovators in the civic space who favor the kind of big, disruptive ideas that upturn conventional thinking. Though we promote many progressive concepts, we’re not beholden to the traditional political framework of liberal versus conservative; an idea’s value and utility should be more important than its origin. By thinking, writing, and acting outside the realm of conventional political discourse,Civic Ventures plans to drive the conversation and fundamentally alter the status quo in Seattle, Washington state, and the United States.

VALUES, MISSION, AND GOALS

We believe that the point of politics and economics is to maximize the rate at which we improve the lives of the typical family in our community and country. We reject trickle down economics in all of its forms—the claim that the better the rich do, the better everyone does. We believe that a thriving middle class is the source of growth, not a consequence of growth.

We believe in capitalism, but recognize that the form capitalism takes defines whether the economy benefits the many or the few. Our view is that the only sensible long-term policy is to maximize the benefit to the many. We know that there is often a giant difference between policies that benefit capitalism generally and policies that benefit a few capitalists narrowly, despite what some capitalists may tell us.

We believe in progress and innovation in all of its forms. We believe that the technological innovation that solves human problems is the source of all improvements in living standards. But we also acknowledge that every commercial technological innovation brings with it disruption—and therefore that healthy communities depend on matching the rate of commercial innovation with equal amounts of civic and social innovation.

We believe that prosperity, or what some call growth, is the consequence of a positive feedback loop between increasing amounts of innovation and demand. We know that the principal driver of this feedback loop is inclusion. Including as many people as possible in as many ways as possible—as consumers, workers, innovators and citizens—is the most direct, effective and durable way to increase prosperity and social cohesion and harmony. Inclusion is our most fundamental value and drives all of our work.

Our goal is to create systemic disruptive change that improves the lives of our fellow citizens and community. Civic Ventures believes in the power of ideas, particularly new ideas, to disrupt the political landscape by radically reshaping public opinion. We believe that all significant social and civic change transforms the way citizens understand how the world works—and thus changes the way they feel and what policies or outcomes they prefer. We will not focus energy or resources on activities, programs, or organizations that are ameliorative or downstream from the problem. Said another way, we seek to prevent poverty, rather than treat the symptoms of poverty.

We believe that significant civic, political, and social national change usually begins locally. Change is best effected on the local level; the experimental nature of city and state governance has always fostered a political and civic wisdom that improves policy and law on the national level. We embrace this “local first” theory of change and believe it creates a unique opportunity for us. That said, when the opportunity presents itself, we will also seek to enact change at the national level.

We are institutionally independent, accountable only to our community and ourselves, and will do whatever it takes to innovate important social change, even if we antagonize allies in the process. We believe effective leadership requires building a great strategy first and then building a collation around that strategy. Coalition-first movements lead nowhere but to bureaucracy and half measures. That said, as institutions yield to networks, we recognize that we can’t accomplish important work by ourselves. We must always partner with other like-minded groups and institutions to be effective. We are willing to lead the pack, but will never be “lone wolves”.

Our ability to create and integrate policy, politics, and narrative in real time in our own community gives us an unmatched ability to optimize and modify our plans strategically and effectively. Paying close attention to the feedback loop between ideas, policies, and politics can lead to faster learning and more effective decision-making and strategy. We seek to be nimble and to use our agility and small size to maximum advantage. We seek voids and opportunities in the civic sphere—places where others fear to tread, that allow us to create the largest and most disruptive impact.

We will lead, catalyze, or participate in local and national civic actions that meet the following criteria:

1

The cause is inherently inclusive and will improve the lives of a majority of our fellow citizens.

2

The environment surrounding the cause provides a unique, disruptive, and strategic opportunity to completely change the frame of the debate and advance a new kind of public argument.

3

Our strategy will always be focused on both winning and on making our opponents lose.

4

We seek to focus only on the most ambitious civic projects and those that are most likely to catalyze national change.

5

We will only engage in fights that advance our narrative and allow us to reframe the debate in a durable way that inherently advances the principle of inclusion that animates much of our work.

BIOS

Nick Hanauer

Founder

Nick is the founder of Civic Ventures. He is a successful business leader, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries. Nick was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com, and a company he founded, aQuantive, later sold to Microsoft for 6.4 billion dollars. He is also the co-founder and partner of Second Avenue Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm.

In recent years, Nick has established himself as a civic innovator, public speaker, and fierce critic of America’s growing income inequality. His political organizations also include Civic Action, the League of Education Voters, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, and he was one of the first advocates for a $15 minimum wage. He co-authored two bestselling books﹣The True Patriot and Gardens of Democracy ﹣ and his policy pieces for outlets like Politico, Bloomberg News, and TED have gone viral, reaching audiences of tens of millions. 

Zach Silk

President and Chief Troublemaker

Zach is the chief executive of Civic Ventures and oversees all of the shop’s programs, products, campaigns and activities. This includes developing and executing all of the organization’s civic products and campaigns, establishing and maintaining partnerships with allied institutions and individuals, and overseeing the work of Civic Ventures’ staff. Zach also oversees Civic Ventures’ investments.

Zach is an experienced social change maker and civic entrepreneur. Before joining Civic Ventures, Zach ran some of the most successful campaigns in Washington state, including passing marriage equality at the ballot box in 2012. Zach is a nationally recognized strategist, organizer and campaign executive. Zach went to college in Wisconsin, earned a graduate certificate from the University of Amsterdam and received his MPA from the University of Washington’s Evan School. Zach grew up in rural Wisconsin and now lives in Seattle with his family.

Jessyn Farrell

Senior Vice President

Jessyn leads key projects including narrative and civic product development on housing, child care, tax reform, and economic security. She also collaborates with the team to create engaging content for our multimedia communications platforms. 

Jessyn was a state legislator from NE Seattle, where she passed ground-breaking legislation on oil-by-rail safety, affordable housing near transit centers, education supports for low-income and homeless youth, protections for pregnant workers, and restrictions to cell-phone use while driving. Jessyn sponsored legislation to increase Washington’s minimum wage and to establish universal portable benefits, and was a lead negotiator on WA’s landmark Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Prior to being a legislator, she ran the Transportation Choices Coalition. She’s a graduate of the University of Washington and Boston College Law School. Jessyn has three kids, a dog, and a cat, and is working on her first novel.

Jasmin Weaver

Executive Vice President

Jasmin is the Executive Vice President of Civic Ventures. She uses her experience managing teams, developing policies, and overseeing advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to direct key projects at Civic Ventures — including restoring overtime protections, supporting increased minimum wages, and improving progressive economic messaging.

Jasmin has worked in budgeting and strategic planning at Harvard University, as Legislative Director for a national union organizing campaign, and as Deputy Director of Seattle’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations. Jasmin has a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Master of Science in Equality Studies degree from University College Dublin. She was born and raised in Seattle, has three small children and an adoring husband, and hopes to return to playing soccer sometime soon.

Stephanie Ervin

Vice President of Advocacy and Campaigns

At Civic Ventures, Stephanie oversees the development of ballot measures and campaigns. Stephanie also manages Civic Ventures’ political and PAC work and supports our multi-media channels, including as a producer of the Pitchfork Economics podcast.

Stephanie has had a career in electoral politics, first working in competitive candidate campaigns including for Governor Christine Gregoire and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, and then transitioning to issue advocacy. Stephanie has run and consulted on legislative and initiative campaigns to prevent gun violence, increase funding for housing and homelessness, to protect endangered species, and to require deescalation training and police accountability to name just a few. She is a devoted care-taker of the world’s best good-boy, labradoodle Mr. Finn. 

David Goldstein

Senior Fellow

As a founding troublemaker, a crackerjack policy wonk, and a shameless propagandist, Goldy gets his bit-stained fingers into much of Civic Ventures’ narrative content and civic product—whether we like it or not.

Goldy stumbled into politics in 2003 with a satirical initiative to officially proclaim WA’s serial anti-tax initiative sponsor, Tim Eyman, “a horse’s ass,” before transforming his campaign website into a local political blog. A mix of snark, muckraking, and sneakily thoughtful analysis, HorsesAss.org quickly became the most influential blog in WA state, and one of the most widely read local political blogs in the nation. Goldy hosted “The David Goldstein Show” on Seattle’s KIRO radio from 2006 through 2008 and  survived more than three years as a staff writer at The Stranger. He is also the proud creator of the world’s most widely pirated rhyming dictionary software.

Paul Constant

Fellow

Paul is a writer and the editor-in-chief at Civic Ventures. He oversees all the shop’s written products, from emails to speeches to articles to blog posts, ensuring that they’re all grammatically, thematically, and substantively sound. He steers the direction of our online publications and helps craft our narrative framing for campaigns and communications. 

Paul has written about politics, culture, and business for many outlets including the Seattle Times, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, and the New York Observer. Paul is also a co-founder of the Seattle Review of Books, an award-winning website for book news, reviews, and interviews from a Seattle perspective.

Stephen Paolini

Program and Policy Director, Civic Action

Stephen manages Civic Action, Civic Ventures’ grassroots activism network. This includes digital, social, multimedia, and conventional platforms that help activists learn about and engage with the most important progressive issues across the country. 

Stephen caught the political bug working as a community organizer on Gun Violence Prevention Ballot Initiative 1491. Since then, he’s helped GVP activists across the state of Washington organize and win. Most recently he was the Campaign Manager for Initiative 1639: Safe Schools and Safe Communities. Stephen moved to Seattle from Orlando in 2016. Despite never having visited Seattle and not having a job, he instantly fell in love.

Annie Fadely

Senior Policy and Programs Associate

Annie handles in-house policy research and analysis for Civic Ventures’ projects at every stage of our change-making process, supporting our ideas as they develop into civic products and campaigns and then helping those projects succeed. She is also a producer of our podcast, Pitchfork Economics. 

Annie has a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School. While in school, she held a number of odd jobs including working on two seasons of local progressive campaigns, editing a book about nuclear power, and managing a warehouse of scuba diving equipment. She likes to keep abreast of Seattle’s thriving restaurants and breweries.