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A long-time progressive strategist, Erica Payne is at the forefront of an effort to build a modern progressive movement.
She is the founder and principal of the Tesseract Group, a boutique consulting firm that provides strategic counsel and communications expertise to organizations, foundations and philanthropists engaged in the public policy arena. At Tesseract, Ms. Payne concentrates on a very limited group of clients – often as few as one or two at a time - focusing on those organizations engaged in either a major launch or a significant transition period. She is typically retained for 1-3 years to work directly with the President or Executive Director as the organization’s lead strategist to guide the group as it shapes (or re-shapes) its mission, brand and organizational structure. Currently, she is serving as a Senior Advisor to the Roosevelt Institute where she is focused on building a new public policy center with an early concentration in economics. In this role, Payne is working with the Institute’s President and several of the country’s leading economists to build a center for the development and promotion of new ideas in financial reform and regulation, and the creation of a robust 21st century economy. The Institute’s Economic Policy Initiative is led by Nobel Prize winning economist Dr. Joe Stiglitz.
In addition to these principle engagements, Ms. Payne dedicates some time to short, concentrated projects –often as limited as a few hours or a couple of days. In these instances, Ms. Payne serves as a progressive SWAT team – parachuting in to punch up a speech or pitch, frame a conference narrative, counsel a foundation board of directors, or shape an important presentation. Most recently, Ms. Payne worked with America Votes to develop a narrative for its re-districting conference including creating the conference’s opening video.
Past clients include:
Payne is also the Founder and President of the Agenda Project, a 501c4 advocacy organization. The Agenda Project was formed to help progressives capitalize on this pivotal moment by providing substantive insight into critical public sector ideas and policies; and by offering independent analysis of the political strategies necessary to realize them. The Agenda Project is focused on furthering three objectives:
- Developing an intellectual and communications infrastructure;
- Advancing progressive ideals by implementing smart, effective public policy;
- Increasing progressive political power.
Prior to Tesseract and the Agenda Project, Payne co-founded the Democracy Alliance, a donor collaborative whose partners have invested over $100 million in progressive organizations.
Her early career included serving as Deputy National Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee during President Clinton’s first term and through the 1996 presidential re-election campaign; and as a consultant to a number of campaigns and political organizations. In addition to her public sector work, Payne has held senior marketing positions in the private sector.
Payne is the author of The Practical Progressive: How to Build a 21st Century Political Movement. She is the editor of Practical Progress, a monthly newsletter for progressive influencers which highlights progress in the development of an effective progressive infrastructure.
Payne has a MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (2000) and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1991).