Alexa Kasdan is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She has been the Director of Research and Policy at the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center since 2008. In partnership with community-based organizations, she designs and implements qualitative and quantitative research and policy projects to strengthen social justice organizing campaigns and create systemic change that improves the lives of low-income people. She has overseen over 70 research projects during her tenure. Examples include community-driven research about housing court that led to passage of NYC legislation guaranteeing a right to counsel for low-income tenants and an examination of the experience of immigrants at employment agencies that led to the Justice for Job Seekers legislation in New York State. She has also led the evaluation of Participatory Budgeting in New York City since 2012 and served on the Steering Committee and the National Research Board for the Participatory Budgeting process. She has also developed various popular education tools and trainings including the Research for Organizing Toolkit and website.
From 2006 until 2008 she was the Research and Policy coordinator at Community Voices Heard, a statewide membership organization that builds the power of low-income New Yorkers. At CVH, she led grassroots driven research and policy campaigns focused on the social safety net and public housing. Alexa currently serves on the Board of Directors at Community Voices Heard.
Alexa has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This course is appropriate for students interested in the role that leadership plays in advancing social innovation and social change in the context of democratic governance.
The course explores the role of leadership in organizational efforts to change thinking, systems, and policies—taking into consideration the contested process by which the responsibility of addressing intractable problems is distributed among key diverse actors in a shared-power world. Traditional approaches to leadership defined by single heroic individuals who influence followers are contrasted with new perspectives—consistent with the demands of today’s complex problems—particularly when we aspire to inclusive, transparent and democratic solutions. Emergent perspectives reveal leadership as the collective achievement of members of a group who share a vision, and who must navigate the constellation of relationships, structures, processes and institutional dynamics within the larger system in which they are embedded.
The course will focus primarily on the organizational level of action, but connections to the individual and policy levels will also be explored. An opportunity to apply course concepts in the context of a particular organization of the student’s choice (with instructor approval) will deepen and personalize the student’s understanding of the interconnections between the three levels of action, and challenge assumptions about leadership and social change and their implications for practice.